EWG News Roundup (6/15): Senate Panel Approves Bipartisan Farm Bill, Pressure Mounts on HHS to Publish Suppressed PFAS Study and More

On Monday, EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber joined Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, at an event on the farm bill and subsidies sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. EWG argued that farm subsidies should be a safety net, not a handout.

“Americans support providing farmers with the tools they need to manage the ups and down of agriculture,” Faber said. “But farm subsidies should only flow to farmers who need help, and who actually live and work on the farm.” 

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture approved a bipartisan farm bill, which came in sharp contrast to the terrible, partisan farm bill proposed by the House. 

The Senate bill preserves funding for anti-hunger, conservation and energy programs. It also provides new mandatory funding for programs that link farmers with local consumers and support organic farmers. Although more conservation spending is needed to address the health impacts of farm pollution, the Senate bill includes important reforms that will better target and leverage conservation programs to protect sources of drinking water. 

And still under fire from revelations about his mounting conflicts of interest and abuses of office, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has reportedly instructed his staff to go slow on complying with Freedom of Information Act requests. Two of Pruitt’s former aides told the House Oversight Committee that their boss told the agency’s staff not to comply with any FOIAs targeting the Trump administration until all the backlogged requests from the Obama administration have been finished.

“Who can blame Pruitt for taking steps to keep the public in the dark?” EWG President Ken Cook asked. “Every time the EPA releases documents through a FOIA request, more revelations come to light showing he’s not only the worst EPA administrator in history, but also the most corrupt cabinet secretary in modern times.”

Then on Thursday, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., the Republican chairman of the Senate committee with oversight of the EPA, announced plans to compel Pruitt to testify specifically in response to his many scandals and alleged abuses of office.

“Scott Pruitt’s low-rent grifting has finally become an albatross for those who have supported and defended him even as the scandals and investigations mounted,” Cook said. “It’s one thing when Pruitt’s swamp stench lingers over only him, but it appears to be infiltrating the airspace around Republicans in Congress and President Trump.”

And to wrap up the week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill that includes language requiring the Trump administration to release a key scientific study on proposed safe levels for fluorinated, or PFAS, chemicals in drinking water. The report, which the Trump administration tried to bury, recommends health guidelines set at levels up to 10 times lower than those the EPA has set.

The amendment to the committee report, authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and approved in the Interior-Environmental spending bill, directs the Department of Health and Human Services to publish the study within two weeks of the bill becoming law.

“Scott Pruitt and the White House clearly will do anything to hide information from the public on any number of issues, including the poisoned drinking water of 100 million Americans,” said EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber. “But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle understand full well how important clean drinking water is for their constituents and all Americans.”

Here’s some more news you can use as you head into the weekend.

The Farm Bill and Farm Subsidy Report

E&E News: Advocates welcome Senate farm bill — with caveats

The Environmental Working Group also found aspects to both praise and criticize. “Although far more conservation spending is needed to address the health impacts posed by farm pollution, the Senate bill includes important reforms that will better target and leverage conservation programs to protect sources of drinking water,” said EWG Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber, in a statement.

Politico – Morning Agriculture: What to watch for in farm bill action

Those groups — and some liberal ones like the Environmental Working Group — also say both versions don’t do enough to cut off wealthy individuals from receiving farm subsidies.

Food Politics: Farm subsidy payments: an EWG analysis

The Environmental Working Group, ever on the job, has a new analysis of subsidy payments to farmers. Nearly 28,000 farmers got USDA payments worth $19 billion since 1985.

High Plains Journal: Reaction to release of Senate farm bill

Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, said, “The bipartisan farm bill released by the Senate Agriculture Committee is a sharp contrast to the terrible, partisan farm bill proposed by the House. Although far more conservation spending is needed to address the health impacts posed by farm pollution, the Senate bill includes important reforms that will better target and leverage conservation programs to protect sources of drinking water.

Reason: The Farm Bill for Billionaires

Congress’s despicable plan to re-subsidize wealthy farmers was revealed just days before a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that monitors farm subsidies, revealed that tens of thousands of Americans had received farm subsidies (or other taxpayer-supported payments) every year for more than three decades.

WNAX: EWG and Taxpayer Groups Want Subsidy Reforms In Senate Farm Bill

The Environmental Working Group, Heritage Foundation and Taxpayers groups want more subsidy reforms in the 2018 farm bill that was sent out of the Senate Ag Committee this week. Joshua Sewell, Senior Policy Analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense is disappointed that the payment limitation provision proposed by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley was left out of the legislation.

AgWeek: Senators from the region tout their chamber's new farm bill draft

Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, said his group still believes “the Senate bill does not go nearly far enough to rein in farm subsidy programs.”

The Daily Signal: Chuck Grassley’s Amendment to Farm Bill Would End Subsidies for Off-Site ‘Farmers’

“As these farms grow more complex with more partners, it becomes less and less likely that subsidy recipients are actually working on the farm,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, who used the phrase “FaceTime farmers” to describe those not actually on the farm.

Ottawa Citizen: On farm subsidies, Donald Trump is throwing stones from inside a $17-billion glass house

American farmers received about $17.2 billion in subsidies in 2016, according to the Environmental Working Group, an organization that has tracked farm subsidies since 1995. That amounts to about $349 billion since the database was created. Reprinted by the Edmonton Journal and National Post.

Oye Times: Farm Subsidies in Canada and the United States The Pot and the Kettle

Now, let’s completely switch gears and look at how the United States government subsidizes American farmers.  Thanks to the Environmental Working Group, we have a complete database of all subsidies provided to American farmers since 1995.

Successful Farming: Grassley’s Farm Bill Challenge: Limit Subsidies to Actual Farmers

Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group called the House bill “the23andMe bill,” a play on the name of a company that traces ancestry. Faber and Joshua Sewell of Taxpayers for Common Sense were panelists in a discussion following Grassley. The 2014 farm law made federally subsidized crop insurance the largest part of the farm safety net. “Let’s embrace it,” said Sewell. “Why do we have them (crop subsidies) at all?”

Texas Monitor: Jobs galore in Texas, yet food program continues like it’s a recession

Opponents have been effective in asking taxpayers how they can demand SNAP reform and turn a blind eye to years of farm subsidies. Just in time for the House and Senate Agriculture Committee debates, the Environmental Working Group, which has long kept track of federal farm subsidies, issued a new report saying the federal government has handed out more than $19.2 billion to 27,930 farmers between 1985 and 2016.

VTDigger: Commentary – Michael Colby: Vermont rising — beyond Big Dairy

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, Vermont farms have received over $321 million in federal subsidies over the last two decades, nearly $16 million a year on average. That’s just to help keep these farms afloat and, in some cases, to attempt to mitigate further ecological damage.

AgInfo.net: Soil Moisture Technology and Mexico Duty on U.S. Pork

A new Environmental Working Group report shows almost 28,000 U.S. farmers received taxpayer-funded federal farm subsidies or disaster relief payments for 32 straight years. The new analysis uses USDA data that reportedly shows payments totaling roughly $19.2 billion dollars.

Before It’s News: The Farm Bill: When “conservatives” abandon the free market and pay off cronies

Congress’s despicable plan to re-subsidize wealthy farmers was revealed just days before a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that monitors farm subsidies, revealed that tens of thousands of Americans had received farm subsidies (or other taxpayer-supported payments) every year for more than three decades.

NBC7: KWWL (Waterloo, Iowa): Sen. Grassley opposes current farm bill

The Environmental Working Group, a nonpartisan environmental organization, praised parts of the bill saying "the bill modestly tightens" restrictions on those subsidies, but agrees with Sen. Grassley that it doesn't guarantee the payments will go directly to farmers who actually live on the farm.

EPA and Scott Pruitt

Salon: Scott Pruitt is burying his radical pro-polluter agenda under oceans of boring legalese

“How EPA weighs and calculates the costs and benefits of any particular action has significant regulatory implications,” explained Melanie Benesh, the legislative attorney for Environmental Working Group. “To the extent that you’re changing that the way the agency has to do that, and if you’re increasing the burden on the agency to justify actions they’re taking to protect the environment and public health, that’s potentially very significant.”

EcoWatch: Pruitt Ordered Staff to Delay FOIA Requests, Top House Dem Says

Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook had similar sentiments.

“From his $43,000 secure phone booth to his failure to keep records of decision-making, Scott Pruitt has taken astonishing steps to shield his activities from the public,” Cook said in a statement. “Meddling with the long-established FOIA process is the latest indication he clearly has a lot to hide.”

HHS and PFAS Letter

Chemical Watch: US NGOs press for release of PFAS tox profile

The co-signing NGOs – including the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Greenpeace, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Safer States – are urging the HHS to release the report “immediately”. “PFAS chemicals are potent toxicants linked to cancer, liver and thyroid damage, developmental impacts, and numerous other adverse health effects” wrote the groups. “The government should be sharing information about these dangers, not hiding it.”

Foreign Affairs: Health and Human Services study critical to protecting the health and well-being of communities nationwide

New Jersey is home to 1-in-10 of the 16 million Americans with drinking water contaminated by PFAS, according to a separate study by the Environmental Working Group and Northwestern University.  Among the sites in New Jersey identified as sources PFAS contamination are Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck (Monmouth), Solvay Specialty Polymer and Arkema in West Deptford (Gloucester County), and DuPont’s Chambers Works facility in Pennsville (Salem County).

California Green Cleaning Bill

Clean Link: California School 'Green Cleaning' Bill Advances

The legislation, sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, expressly excluded products that must bear a Proposition 65 warning label from the definition.

California Oil and Gas

KVPR (Central California): Dormant But Risky – New State Law Aims To Prevent Problems From Idle Oil And Gas Wells

But to Bill Allayaud of the non-profit organization Environmental Working Group, AB 2729 is a welcome change. He says this and a few related bills mark a new era for the regulating agency DOGGR, which he believes used to be too cozy with the industry. The law is “music to my ears,” he says. “After looking at DOGGR for these years and seeing how little they were doing in terms of regulating the oil industry, here was DOGGR saying, ‘you know what, we’re going to do a better job of enforcement.’”

TSCA Priority Chemicals

Care2: Oh, COME ON! EPA Eliminates Chemical Safety Checks

Last year, Environmental Working Group called Beck “the scariest Trump appointee you’ve never heard of” and it seems like the label is warranted give how she’s chosen to use her position so far. She’s taken a commonsense law and manipulated it to benefit corporations rather than protect consumers.


Channel365: DIY Air Freshener Spray Recipe (with Video)

According to the Environmental Working Group: “… a University of Washington study found that eight unnamed, widely used U.S. air fresheners released an average of 18 chemicals into the air. On average, one in five of these chemicals were hazardous substances highlighted in federal and some state pollution standards. Fully half the air fresheners tested released acetaldehyde, a likely human carcinogen according to the EPA.”


The Mirror: Common nail varnish ingredient could be making you gain weight - what to look out for and buy instead

According to a study by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a common ingredient found in nail polishes could be impacting our bodies

Total Beauty: What Exactly Is Mineral Oil and Why Is It So Controversial?

The EWG gives mineral oil a sore of one to three, depending upon its usage. It has a low risk of contributing to cancer and a moderate risk of non-reproductive organ system toxicity.

Cosmetics and Skin Deep®

Health Canal: A Guide to All-Natural Makeup

If you’re unsure of where to look, checking the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website is a great place to start. Here you’ll find safety scores for every product you can imagine.

Poughkeepsie Journal: Think green when it comes to beauty

Blankenship recommends checking foreign-sounding ingredients for toxicity levels on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website prior to making any purchases.


Eluxe Magazine: 10 Of The Best Organic Sunscreens That Won’t Hurt the Coral Reefs

Certified as safe by the Environmental Working Group and Sephora, Biossance works to bring sustainable beauty technology to the market, and we love everything they put out. Their sunscreen is 100% plant-based and is incredibly effective and safe. Their sun block also protects your skin against pollution – bonus!

Today’s Parent: Attitude Super Leaves Natural Body Cream

Dry skin that needs to be nourished. Packed full of natural moisturizing ingredients, Attitude Super Leaves Natural Body Cream is easy to dispense, apply and provides long-lasting moisture. Better yet, it’s vegan, cruelty free, CO2 neutral, EWG verified and EcoLogo certified. This fast-absorbing body cream calms skin upon application and doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind.

Guide to Insect Repellents

ParentMap: How Safe Is Bug Spray for Kids?

It’s an item you don’t want to ignore because many of these mosquito and tick-borne illnesses can be extremely serious and concerning, says David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Of course, bites from insects can also make kids — and adults — feel miserable.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM

Reviewed: Be careful when grocery shopping—these fruits and veggies could be contaminated

Next time you're shopping at the grocery store, you may want to think twice about the fruits and veggies you plan to buy. That's because some contain significantly more pesticide residue than others, according to the non-profit Environmental Working Group based on data gathered by the US Department of Agriculture.

News Bug: Production methods set organic foods apart, Northwest Indiana experts say

That Forbes article discusses the Environmental Working Group, an organization funded by organic marketers, and its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the fruits and vegetables ranked the highest in pesticide residue in tested samples.


TODAY (NBC): How to keep toddlers safe in the sun, according to a pediatric dermatologist

Lotions and creams are best for providing coverage on larger body parts, like the chest and back. And, Badger is a trusted brand — the kids lotion made the Environmental Working Group's list of the best sunscreens for kids. This organic sunscreen contains the recommended amount of zinc oxide. Reprinted by MSN.

The Cheat Sheet: Summertime Safety: Life-Saving Facts about Sunscreen You Need to Know

In a test conducted by the non-profit organization, Environmental Working Group (EWG), sunscreens contained “potentially harmful chemicals,” according to Scientific American. Chemicals included Benzophenone, homosalate, and octyl methoxycinnamate — also known as octinoxate — “which are known to mimic naturally occurring bodily hormones and can thus throw the body’s systems out of whack.” Others contained Padimate-0 and parsol 1789, which may cause “DNA damage when exposed to sunlight.”

Chicago Tribune: Spray sunscreens are convenient but must be used correctly

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group cautions against using sprays because of inhalation and effectiveness concerns. Despite these concerns, there’s been an increase in the amount of spray on the market in recent years, said David Andrews, senior scientist at the group.

GOOP – Toxic Avenger Column: Understanding—and Avoiding—Toxic Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group has warned the public about oxybenzone for more than a decade. Human exposure and toxicity research links the chemical to allergic skin reactions. Laboratory studies also show that oxybenzone is a weak estrogen and has potent antiandrogenic effects.

Houston Chronicle: Sun Care Gets a Healthy Upgrade

Love Sun Body Earned EWG’s Best Score: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rated Love Sun Body Sunscreens the best score of 1 out of 10 for safety and efficacy. All formulas are hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic and water and sweat-resistant up to 80 minutes. 

Martha Stewart Living: The Best Natural Sunscreens for Everyday Use

No one wants to rub a thick chalky goo or greasy stick on their cheeks and show up to work with the dreaded white residue lingering around. It’s bad enough at the beach! Luckily, as our sun protection awareness has grown in the past few years, the formulas on market have improved significantly. “A lot of research has gone into making sunscreens more useable,” says David Andrews, Ph.D, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “Finding something that works for you is a critical point and makes it much more likely you'll use it.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer: What you need to know about sunscreen, especially for kids
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group publishes an annual guide to sunscreens, which rates the effectiveness and safety of U.S. products. There are 216 beach and sport sunscreens with a green rating in EWG’s 12th annual sunscreen guide. The group rated 23 of the best-scoring sunscreens specifically marketed for use on babies and kids:

POPSUGAR: Check Your Beauty Products — Here Are 5 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

The UV-ray absorbing chemical oxybenzone is a highly absorbent ingredient that has been shown to mimic estrogen in the body and has a high rate for skin allergy as well, according to studies compiled by the Environmental Working Group. Other synthetic chemical sunscreen agents including benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and ethoxycinnmate may cause cellular damage and cancer in the body. These chemicals are none too friendly to the environment either and are toxic to many organisms, including coral. Reprinted by NewsDog.

Reader’s Digest: The 12 Safest Sunscreens You Can Buy

Confused about which chemicals to avoid in your sunscreen? The Environmental Working Group, a consumer safety watchdog organization, just released its comprehensive buying guide. We’ve sorted through the findings to bring you the best sun-smart options that are free of harmful chemicals.

WRAL (Raleigh, N.C.): Consumers' choice could help save Hawaii's coral reefs

It is known that oxybenzone and octinoxate are absorbed by the body. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, so it acts like a hormone in the body and might affect the reproductive system. The two chemicals also cause allergic reactions more than any other active sunscreen ingredient, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer review group.

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