EWG News Roundup (10/23): Inside the FDA’s Failure To Ban Toxic Hair Straighteners, How the Supreme Court Could Dismantle Environmental Law and More

Drawing on internal government records provided by EWG, the New York Times published a bombshell report documenting the tug of war inside the Food and Drug Administration and how scientists at the agency tried and failed to ban formaldehyde in popular hair-smoothing treatments, also known as “Brazilian blowouts.”

EWG obtained emails from scientists at the FDA in 2015 and 2016 that show increasing frustration about the agency’s efforts to regulate toxic chemicals in cosmetics – a step along the timeline of the FDA’s failure to address these hair treatments. 

 “These emails show the glacial pace of regulating chemicals that are known to cause harm,” said EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “FDA scientists knew exposure to formaldehyde from these hair treatments was linked to serious health issues. They tried and failed to issue a formaldehyde ban – all the while continuing to receive reports of health harms from consumers and stylists.”

Next week, the Senate will almost certainly vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. With her confirmation and the current makeup of the court, the Environmental Protection Agency could see its authority to enforce nearly all major environmental laws severely hobbled and its ability to introduce future public health initiatives significantly diminished under a much more conservative court.

Eighteen month ago, the EPA announced a plan to address the crisis of the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS. So far, the plan has accounted for very little. On Facebook Live, Benesh broke down this failure and the many other PFAS failures of the Trump administration.

And finally, EWG added information about healthy cleaning products to our Healthy Living App, which now includes ratings for foods, personal care products and cleaners.

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

Children’s Health

Parents: Organic and Nontoxic Diapers: Finding the Best for Your Baby

But disposable diapers aren't uniformly labeled, and they're weakly regulated, meaning specific ingredients or materials can vary vastly from brand to brand, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). 

Babygaga: Artificial Sweeteners For Babies & Toddlers: What Parents Need to Consider First

According to the Environmental Working Group, 25% of children consume foods that contain artificial sweeteners, and of those children, 80% of them consume them daily.

Trendhunter: Honey-Infused Baby Wipes

The first-of-their-kind baby wipes are certified by the Environmental Working Group and share a chemical-free experience for babies with sensitive skin.

Brazilian Blowout

New York Times: The F.D.A. Wanted to Ban Some Hair Straighteners. It Never Happened.

The Food and Drug Administration has allowed Brazilian Blowout and similar products, called keratin treatments, to remain on the market despite the recommendations of its own scientists, according to internal agency emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the advocacy group Environmental Working Group and shared with The New York Times.

Business Insider: The FDA ignored its own scientists' advice to ban 'toxic' Brazilian blowdries, according to a report

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit that advocates for environmental and human health, requested any of the FDA's internal correspondence on the matter, but the agency hasn't fulfilled that request to this day. 

EWG’s Healthy Living App Update

The List: Here’s why you should think twice about hypoallergenic skincare

If, however, you aren't necessarily allergic to anything but want to avoid toxins, consider downloading the Environmental Working Group's Healthy Living app on your phone.

Scary Mommy: These Are The Safest (And Most Effective) Face Washes During Your Pregnancy

If you haven’t tried their Healthy Living App yet, you scan your product and find out what is good (or not so good) about it. They make it so easy (and a little addictive) to know if your products are safe.

Trump’s Farmer Bailout

Reuters: Trump’s payments to farmers hit all-time high ahead of election

The Environmental Working Group, a health and environmental advocacy group, called the program “old-fashioned vote buying,” saying it did not send money to groups truly at risk. 

International Business Times: Is US Farm Support Now About The November Election?

In April, when commodity prices fell through the floor due to the demand destruction from the pandemic, the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for a healthier future for everything from farms to fracking, said federal stimulus wasn’t enough to support farmers.

WEKU (Ky.): Awash In Relief Money, Ohio Valley Farmers Reflect on Trump Promises- And Their Ballots

Together, the two programs have pumped a staggering $37.9 billion into farm economies around the country, according to USDA data and the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that has long tracked farm subsidies. 

Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court Nomination

USSA News: The Activist Left Turns It Fire On Amy Coney Barrett

On October 6, 2020, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released an open letter urging the Senate not to confirm Barrett to the Supreme Court. The following groups co-signed the letter… Environmental Working Group

Cleaning Products

MindBodyGreen: These 15 Cleaning Products Are Safe & Sustainable- And They Actually Work

"The term can be misleading, as 'natural' products often contain plenty of hazardous chemicals and undisclosed ingredients," Samara Geller, a senior research and database analyst for the environmental watchdog group Environmental Working Group (EWG), tells mindbodygreen.

My Fitness Pal: 15 Home Hacks to Set Yourself up For Healthier Habits

To steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals, experts recommend choosing from the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of healthy kitchen cleaners.

Green Matters: The Most Innovative Zero-Waste Laundry Detergents on the Market

On average, Dropps products earn a B safety score on the EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. You can order Dropps through the company's website, or from other online marketplaces like EarthHero.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

GQ: Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness On His Favorite Grooming Products, And Why The Future of Beauty Is Clean

GQ: Any resources you can suggest to become better informed? JVN: The Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep data base at ewg.org/skindeep.

Grist: Natural skincare won’t fix 2020, but can it fix what it did to my face?

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group does a pretty comprehensive evaluation of the health and environmental bonafides of skincare products and cosmetics every year, and you can use it as a starting point when evaluating the merits of any product you’re thinking of ordering.

Paperblog: All of the Breast Cancer Awareness Products You Can Buy Right Now

The deodorant is made from natural ingredients and 100 percent natural essential oils. In addition, each ingredient is selected by hand based on its safety assessment by the environmental working group.

Real Simple: What Exactly Is ‘Green-Washing’- And Why Is It a Problem?

There are also helpful apps (for example, Skin Deep, created by the Environmental Working Group, and ThinkDirty) that allow you to quickly and easily access complete ingredient information about a product.  


Vogue: Liza Koshy Shares Her Guide to Multi-Masking and Confidence-Boosting Eye Makeup

“Your face has different needs,” she explains, brushing an exfoliating treatment onto her chin and her nose, a calming concoction under her eyes, and hydrating and brightening formulas atop her cheeks—all of which are Environmental Working Group verified. 

Allure: Liza Koshy’s Signature Colorful Beauty Style Is Now Its Own Collection

The line's energy is light and fun, but the formula development process was anything but breezy. "All of our items are Environmental Working Group verified," she says. "I sat at their conference table and they take themselves so seriously. I'm so glad they do because I need someone to be serious about what's going on my skin and in my body.".

Byrdie: Liza Koshy Swears by This $20 “Shimmering Hydrafluid” to Get Her Glow

The capsule collection, aptly titled "One of One," is an EWG (Environmental Working Group)-verified and dermatologist-tested line of skincare and makeup products now available for pre-sale and available November 16.

Farming Practices

Civil Eats: Fighting Voter Suppression, Environmental Racism, and Corporate Agriculture in Hog Country

According to a report released this summer by the Waterkeeper Alliance and Environmental Working Group, between 2012 and 2019, the estimated number of chickens and turkeys in Duplin, Sampson, and Robeson counties increased by 36 percent to 113 million, compared to only 17 percent in the rest of the state.

Nitrate Water Pollution

Maryland Matters: Report: Eastern Shore Has Unhealthy Levels of Nitrate in Drinking Water Due to CAFOs

Furthermore, nitrate pollution in drinking water may be responsible for 12,500 cases of cancer per year in the US, as well as low birth rates and preterm births, according to a 2019 study from the Environmental Working Group. 

PFAS in Drinking Water

Consumer Reports: New PFAS Compound in N.J. Water May Be More Toxic Than Older One, Regulators Say

“The American people and the residents of New Jersey should be outraged,” says Dave Andrews, senior scientist at the advocacy organization Environmental Working Group. “Recent studies found previously unknown PFAS compounds in soil and drinking water near a Solvay chemical manufacturing plant,” Andrews added.

Truthout: More Traces of Cancer-Causing PFAS in Arctic Raise Alarm Over Global Spread

Back home, the findings of an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study helped lead the nonprofit watchdog organization to posit that PFASs are probably detectable in “all major water supplies” in the U.S.

WasteDive: Burning ‘forever chemicals’ emerges as industry flash point

Many environmental groups and health experts have similar reservations about engaging in a process about which little is known. Researchers with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) authored an upcoming December study in the journal Chemosphere analyzing numerous studies on PFAS disposal.

Waste Dive: Toxic PFAS waste that lasts ‘forever’ poses financial, logistical challenges for landfills

Industry research is emerging alongside outside reports by environmental groups and others. In an upcoming study already available online in the journal Chemosphere, experts with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found groundwater contamination from older landfills remains a concern. Their report concludes methods ensuring safe disposal of PFAS are unknown, even as landfills present a potentially safer option than incineration.

Waste Dive: ‘We can never get to zero’: Organics recyclers face hard choices in responding to PFAS contamination

“It’s not an ‘either or’ issue,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative and regulatory attorney with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization with a major focus on PFAS. “We certainly have to think about ways to remediate, ways to get PFAS out of the environment. But we also can’t keep adding to all the pollution that’s already out there.”

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Huffpost: Are Apples Really That Good For You, And What’s The Healthiest Type?

Non-organic apples consistently rank high in the Environmental Working Group’s annual “dirty dozen” list of produce containing high amounts of pesticides.

Medium: How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering From An Eating Disrder

You don’t have to buy everything organic — check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list to learn which fruits and veggies are best purchased organic due to high pesticide levels.

First for Women: Make Strawberries Last for Up to 2 Weeks With This Simple Hack

The acids present in vinegar help to kill off harmful bacteria, so many people use it to clean things, including fruit. Strawberries top the list of the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen almost every year (meaning they are sprayed with more toxic chemicals than any other produce item), so cleaning them with vinegar is particularly important.

EWG Guide to Sunscreens 

Yahoo News: I Tried This Bestselling Sunscreen on Amazon, and My Skin Had Never Been Happier

Purito uses ingredients that are EWG Green Level Grades 1 and 2, so it is perfect for sensitive or reactive skin like mine. 

Tap Water Database

BruDirect: Is It Safe To Drink Your Tap Water? EWG’s Updated Database Can Help You Find Out

Last week, a peer-reviewed study by scientists from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) was published in the Environmental Science and Technology Letters journal that showed that more than 200 million Americans could be drinking water that is contaminated with toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS.

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