EWG news roundup (7/2): Cover crops planting plateaus across the Midwest, ‘forever chemicals’ legislation introduced and more

A new EWG study finds that despite cover crops’ benefits curbing water pollution from farm runoff, they remain underutilized on Midwestern farmland. In 2019, only one in every 20 acres of corn and soybean land in four major Midwestern farm states was protected by cover crops, according to our analysis.

“Scientists have known since the Dust Bowl how valuable cover crops are for protecting water, soil and air quality,” said Soren Rundquist, EWG’s director of spatial analysis and lead author of the report. “Cover crops can also alleviate some of the effects of severe storms associated with the accelerating climate crisis. But farmers just aren’t planting them on enough acres to drive these benefits in any meaningful way.”

EWG applauded two major actions on Capitol Hill this week addressing the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. First, the House introduction of the Filthy 50 Act by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) – a bill to set cleanup deadlines for Defense Department facilities contaminated with PFAS. And the full House advanced bipartisan legislation to limit industrial discharges of PFAS.

In response to an EWG complaint, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that a popular brand of organic chickpeas was contaminated with the cancer-causing weedkiller glyphosate.

“The investigation further underscores why it is critical the USDA hold organic farming operations to a higher level of transparency – to best protect consumers from dietary exposure to glyphosate, as well as protecting the integrity of its own organic certification,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis M. Temkin, Ph.D.

And finally, as we head into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, EWG pulled together helpful sunscreen tips and broke down this year’s nationwide toxic algae bloom outlook.

Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

Children’s health

Rose Inc.: A Renowned MD Gets Real About Cosmetics & Pregnancy

“These ingredients can affect not just the unborn baby, but also the health of the child, teen, and adult.” She advocates for fewer, safer products and points patients to the Environmental Working Group’s database as a first step to shift through one’s vanity. “It rates the safety of many products as well as published research on why an ingredient is safe or not,” she says. “It’s an excellent resource.”

Cover crops report

Politico: Biden wants to pay farmers to grow carbon-capturing crops. It’s complicated.

Scott Faber, head of government affairs for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, said USDA should “reboot” longstanding environmental initiatives. Farmers already regularly participate in the well-established Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program. All of those USDA programs pay farmers to either employ greener practices or take land out of production.

Harvest Public Media: Cover Crops Can Help Slow Climate Change, But Few Farmers Are Planting Them

It's understandable that you might not see as much growth if the mechanism that is being used to get this voluntary practice on the landscape isn't funded to the levels it once was,” Rundquist says. He says other factors contribute to the low adoption rate, including weather variability for crop planting (due to climate change), as well as high rates of Midwestern farmland owned by absentee landlords, who are shown to be less likely to implement conservation practices on their land.

Inside Climate News: Despite Capitol Hill Enthusiasm for Planting Crops to Store Carbon, Few Farmers are Doing It, Report Finds

In a new analysis published Wednesday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental research and advocacy nonprofit, found that acreage planted in cover crops remained exceedingly small and had leveled off across the Corn Belt after a bump upwards from 2015 to 2017. In 2019, the latest year EWG analyzed, out of 68 million acres of corn and soybean, only 3.2 million acres were planted with cover crops, which are usually planted between cash crops over the winter.

The Hill: Young Republicans See Shift in GOP: ‘FROM Outright Denial to Climate Caucus'

But farmers across the Corn Belt are only planting a small fraction of the carbon-capturing “cover crops” touted by the bill, a new analysis published by the Environmental Working Group found, according to Inside Climate News. The study showed that in 2019, only 3.2 million out of 68 million acres of corn and soybean included cover crops. To put a significant dent in U.S. emissions, the current “cover crop acres would have to increase fourteen-fold to get close to the number of acres needed to achieve a miniscule reduction,” according to the study.

Iowa Capital Dispatch: Environmental group: Growth in cover crop use slowing in Iowa

“Scientists have known since the Dust Bowl how valuable cover crops are for protecting water, soil and air quality,” report author Soren Rundquist wrote. “Cover crops can also alleviate some of the effects of severe storms associated with the accelerating climate crisis. But farmers just aren’t planting them on enough acres to drive these benefits in any meaningful way.”

Iowa Capital Dispatch: Environmental group: Iowa’s waterway cleanup plan could take 22,000 years

The council noted that the rate of cover crop planting in Iowa has not accelerated since the Nutrient Reduction Strategy was adopted in 2013. The national Environmental Working Group this week reported that satellite images show Iowa’s growth in the use of cover crops has slowed.

Progressive Farmer: Cover Crops Adoption Remains Low

The results of an Environmental Working Group study show that, in 2019, 1 in every 20 acres of corn and soybeans in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota -- or just 3.2 million acres out of 68 million total acres -- were protected by cover crops. From 2015 to 2017, cover crop usage grew in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana, according to EWG, but their implementation "slowed markedly" between 2017 and 2019.

Black farmers and Covid-19 relief payments

Atlanta Black Star: Federal Judge Sides With White Farmer Who Said Debt Relief Package for Black Farmers is Unfair, Temporarily Halts Stimulus Package

White farmers collected nearly 97% of the $9.2 billion in USDA pandemic payments from May through October 2020, according to the Environmental Working Group. On average, white farmers received $3,398 while Black farmers averaged $422. A Wisconsin judge previously blocked the program following a case brought by a white farmer in the state.

Cleaning products

Mind Body Green: The Pet Owner's Guide To Enzyme Cleaners + 8 Options To Start With

“Enzymes also help boost the cleaning power of laundry detergents, non-chlorine bleaches, and other laundry aids,” Samara Geller, a senior research and database analyst for the environmental champion Environmental Working Group (EWG), says. “They're also added to more general household stain removers, dish detergents, and drain and septic maintenance products.”

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

Medium: Best Natural Lifestyle Product Swaps Shared By a Professional Wellness Practitioner

When it comes to self-care routines, choosing body products that are free from phthalates, parabens, allergens, petrochemicals, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances and various other toxins is important. Going to EWG’s Skin Deep guide can help determine concerns.

Treehugger: What Does a Clean Beauty Label Really Mean?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has developed a list of twelve chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer. A few common ingredients they say to avoid are formaldehyde, parabens, petroleum/mineral oil, and fragrances.

Endocrine disruptors

Environmental Health News: Black and Latinx hairdressers exposed to high levels of phthalates

Researchers have found, for example, that African-American and African-Caribbean women are more likely to use hair care products containing hormones and hormone-mimicking compounds than white women. And a 2016 review from the Environmental Working Group of its Skin Deep database, which contains safety information on ingredients in thousands of personal care products, found that fewer of the products marketed to Black women are "low risk."

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics

Forbes: Follain’s Everything Soap Is A Cult Classic Worth A Revisit

The skincare formulas are Environmental Working Group-certified which is now considered the gold standard for ingredient safety and transparency. The brand has also recently pledged to commit at least 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands, and as part of that, at least 20% to BIPOC brands.

Forbes: Six Clean Summer Fragrances To Try Now

Henry Rose is a unisex fragrance brand that is verified and certified by two clean and sustainable organizations, Environmental Working Group and Cradle to Cradle.

FIFRA

The Intercept: The Department of Yes: How Pesticide Companies Corrupted the EPA and Poisoned America

“FIFRA is encoded to approve pesticides,” said Scott Faber, who leads the Environmental Working Group’s government affairs efforts. “There have been many changes to try to bolt on provisions that ensure that pesticides don’t pose an unreasonable risk to the environment. But the law is ultimately still designed to protect farmers and encourage pesticide companies to bring new products to the market.”

Food additives

Medium: Eaten Any Good E. Coli and Plastic Lately?

According to the Head of Governmental Affairs for the Environmental Working Group, the Food and Drug Administration did not vet or scrutinize this product. Although researchers have not actually verified that vanillin is safe for human consumption, they do say that they “believe” it’s safe and is planning further testing, according to IFLScience.

EWG Healthy Living App

Bustle: 6 Apps That'll Help You Find Cleaner Beauty Products

There are so many products on shelves that it can make choosing the safest ones a daunting task. The Skin Deep website and Healthy Living App are part of the Environmental Working Group.

Insect repellent

KMJ Now (Fresno, Cali.): Bug Bites are Bothersome and Dangerous: How to Protect Yourself

If the area you live in, or plan to visit, does not show any insect-borne illness, choose a repellent that contains a 5% to 20% concentration of picaridin since it is less likely to cause eye irritation or allergic reactions, according to EWG. For people who are chemically sensitive, a product called Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus may be helpful. It is sold under the names of Repel and Off! Botanicals, according to WebMD.

Nitrates in water

Iowa Public Radio: Study: Nitrate Contamination In Water More Likely To Affect Lower Income Communities In Iowa

“In the U.S. we think we have safe drinking water and that it’s regulated by the federal government so it should be totally OK to drink and not have any health impacts that come from what we’re consuming,” Schechinger said. “But it’s just devastating that people have to experience things like cancer just from drinking water every day.”

Wisconsin Public Radio: Study Finds Lower Income Communities More Likely To Deal With Nitrate Contamination In Drinking Water

"When you have lower income communities struggling with nitrate and drinking water, it's an extra cost burden on these communities that already might have trouble paying for water bills or other necessities," said Anne Schechinger, senior analyst of economics for EWG.

Times Republican (Marshalltown, Iowa): No nitrates found in Marshalltown water

A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study found communities in Iowa that have elevated nitrate levels tend to have households with lower incomes. The nitrate level for Marshalltown is undetectable. Marshalltown Water Works General Manager Shelli Lovell said there is no problem with nitrates in this utility.

PFAS

Chemistry World: Cost of tackling PFAS pollution on US military bases expected to reach $2.1bn

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has identified 703 US military sites with known and suspected discharges of PFAS compounds, says the new GAO report confirms how little progress the Pentagon has made in cleaning up legacy PFAS pollution, and that the cost of remediation is going to grow.

INDY Colorado Springs (Colo.): PFAS progress slow

The Environmental Working Group reports that a new Government Accountability Office report predicts the costs of cleaning up “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, from Defense Department installations will “likely increase significantly” beyond the billions of dollars DOD has already estimated.

PFAS Action Act

Water World: PFAS Action Act clears Key House committee

According to the Environmental Working group (EG), The PFAS Action Act of 2021, introduced by Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell (D), and Fred Upton (R), would create a national drinking water standard for select PFAS chemicals, designate PFAS as hazardous substances, limit industrial discharges and provide $200 million annually to assist water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities.

PFAS in consumer products

Star Tribune (Minneapolis): No PFAS in food packaging in Minnesota by 2024

"States have really been leading the way on this issue," said Melanie Benesh, a lawyer at the Environmental Working Group. Benesh said the food packaging most at issue is coated paper products such as French fry containers, molded fiber or paper clam shells and soda and coffee cups. But even the gold tray under boxed bakery cakes contains PFAS, she said.

Easy Health Options: Dangerous ‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Hiding In Your Cosmetics

In addition to cosmetics, you should also be aware of hidden PFAS in other personal care items. The Environmental Working Group is a great source for safer cosmetics and personal care items. Check their recommendation at EWG’s Skin Deep®.

PFAS in water

Green Matters: Avoid These PFAS Chemicals, or "Forever Chemicals" At All Costs

Yes, the EPA reports that PFAS of the PFOA, PFOS, and GenX variety have been discovered in drinking water systems all over the world. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), water contamination could be far more prevalent than was previously thought. Contamination usually occurs nearest to facilities where PFAS are made but it can also occur in places where products made with PFAS are disposed of.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Authority Magazine: Arielle Bloom of Navigating Nutrition On The 5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight, And Keep It Permanently

Check the list from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for their updated list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for produce that should be organic when possible and the produce that doesn’t need to be.

Delicious Living: Stay Sharp to 100!

Eiser says working up a sweat, via exercise or in a sauna, can help with detox. To help limit your toxin exposure from personal care products, water, food, and more, he also recommends resources from the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org).

EWG Guide to Sunscreens

Rolling Stone: The Best Reef-Safe, Eco-Friendly Sunscreens

Thanks to relying on the force of zinc oxide to fight off the UVAs and UVBs and leaving artificial fragrances, parabens, nanoparticles, and chemical sunscreens in some other guy’s lab, Uber scored the lowest hazard rating the Environmental Working Group hands out.

Beautiful Moms: This Sunscreen Made the EWG Best of Guide 3 Years in a Row

For the third year in a row, C’est Moi Beauty’s Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 has been included on The Environmental Working Group’s List of Approved clean, reef-safe sunscreens. This year is no different, except that ALL of C’est Moi’s SPF products are now on the list, including their Sunshine Mineral Sunscreen Lotion and Face Stick as well as all of their Tinted SPF Moisturizing Lotions.

Tap Water Database

St. Louis Post Dispatch (Mo.): Richard Kyte: Do you know what's in your drinking water?

According to the Environmental Working Group, if drinking water standards were updated using more recent toxicity analyses, my local water utility would exceed the recommended maximum level for 15 of the 37 substances they tested. Looking at it that way, my water quality report does not look so reassuring.

Hanford Sentinel (Cali.): Lemoore council ratifies emergency, gets update on water tank explosion

Councilmember Frank Gornick asked Olson to update the council on how the explosion will affect the City’s work to meet state compliance with a water contaminant called TTHM, which is associated with increased risk of bladder cancer and found at some level in 89% of U.S. resident’s tap water, according to the Environmental Working Group.

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