EWG News Roundup (10/4): PFAS Taints Military Bases, California Adopts Law To Protect People From Lead in Jewelry, and More

This week EWG released an analysis of military installations with excessive levels of groundwater contaminated with highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS. Sixty-four installations had PFAS levels in groundwater exceeding 100,000 parts per trillion. EWG charted the top 100 sites with the highest concentrations.

The pressure on manufacturers of PFAS is mounting. A federal judge allowed a class action case to proceed against 3M, DowDuPont, Chemours and six other companies. Chemical giant 3M is fighting against an effort by the state of New Hampshire to enforce a health-protective drinking water limit for PFAS.

A recent study published by IPEN shows “unequivocal evidence” that firefighters using foams made with PFAS have “unacceptably” high levels of two toxic PFAS chemicals in their blood. 

“Our firefighters and first responders are already asked to put themselves in harm’s way virtually every day,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “Forcing them to use firefighting foams containing dangerous chemicals when there are alternatives that work puts their long-term health at unacceptable risk.”

EWG applauded lawmakers in California this week after Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law protecting Californians from jewelry tainted with highly toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium.

And finally, in energy news, Murray Energy, a coal mining giant with close ties to President Trump, is nearing financial default, and the Federal Regulatory Commission proposed a rule that would gut a law that gives small-scale renewable energy companies a boost.

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

Congress and National Defense Authorization Act

The Hill: Op-Ed – EPA on 'forever chemicals': Let them drink polluted water 

The Department of Defense has cited the absence of a “hazardous substance” designation when refusing to clean up sites contaminated by fluorinated firefighting foams. So far, the Environmental Working Group has documented 297 military installations that are contaminated by PFAS, threatening nearby communities.

Chemical Watch: Support remains strong for addressing PFASs in US defence bill (subscription)

Meanwhile, a number of NGOs – including the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Union of Concerned Scientists, Environment America and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) – have remained vocal supporters of the effort

100 Military Sites with Highest PFAS Detections

Michigan Advance: Michigan House passes bills regulating PFAS in firefighting foam

According to a study released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, Michigan has five locations on a list of 100 U.S. military sites with the worst PFAS contamination levels.

NJ Advance Media: One of the worst spots for these cancer-causing chemicals is in N.J.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is a national hot spot of pollution. It’s among the 100 U.S. military bases most-contaminated by PFAS pollution, according to a list compiled by the advocacy organization Environmental Working Group. It is the only military installation in New Jersey that cracks the list. Reprinted by Lehigh Valley Express-Times

PFAS in Firefighters’ Blood

Colorado Springs Independent: Firefighters have "unacceptably" high levels of PFAS in blood, new report says 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a group of toxic chemicals found in firefighting foam, have polluted water supplies near 206 military installations where the foam was used, according to a mapcreated by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and researchers at Northeastern University.

The Progressive Pulse: Expert panel: Firefighters have “unacceptably high levels” of PFAS in their blood

The Environmental Working Group announced the results, which were published by a panel scientists and engineers hired by IPEN, a global network of public interest groups, to study the issue.

FireRescue1: Study: High PFAS blood levels in firefighters

"Our firefighters and first responders are already asked to put themselves in harm's way virtually every day," EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, Ph.D., said. "Forcing them to use firefighting foams containing dangerous chemicals when there are alternatives that work puts their long-term health at unacceptable risk."

PFAS in California Water Report

The Weather Channel: Dangerous Chemicals in Drinking Water?

The Environmental Working Group has found potentially dangerous PFAS chemicals in the drinking water for 7.5 million Californians.

EcoWatch: Toxic 'Forever Chemicals' Detected in California Drinking Water 

Toxic synthetic chemicals, known as "forever chemicals" for their extreme hardiness to resist degradation once they are released into the environment have been detected in 74 California water sources that deliver water to more than 7.5 million people, according to new research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Reprinted by Environment Guru.

Patch: Toxic Chemicals Found in Drinking Water Of 7 Million Californians

Using data from California water system tests mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency between 2013 and 2019, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group found that 74 of California's community water systems contained potentially dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals called PFAS.

The Daily Free Press (Boston, Mass.): American Protest: Clean drinking water should be a guaranteed right for all Americans

Most recently, California has been in the news because the Environmental Working Group found that chemicals used for carpets and anti-stain products have been found in water sources for 7.5 million people in the Sacramento area.

The Daily Wire: 7.5 Million Californians May Be Using Water With ‘Forever Chemicals’ Possibly Linked To Cancer

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) stated: Among the utilities with high maximum detections of PFAS in drinking water sources was the system for the southern part of Camp Pendleton, the sprawling Marine Corps base in San Diego County, where a combined concentration of 820 ppt for seven different PFAS chemicals was measured in a single well in 2017.

PFAS Class Action Can Move Forward

Bloomberg Law: Limited Legal Impact Predicted From Court’s OK of PFAS Case

Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook likewise called it “a significant victory” in the broader effort to address the impact of PFAS.

Inside EPA: Landmark Tort Suit Against PFAS Makers Clears First Major Court Hurdle (subscription)

“3M and DuPont have hidden knowledge about the toxicity of PFAS chemicals from their own workers and the public for decades, and those fateful decisions have come home to roost,” Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook said in a Sept. 30 statement on the decision. “The court has put the chemical industry on notice that we are a big step closer to the day of reckoning for companies that have pursued profits over protecting Americans’ health,” he added. The environmental group EWG has been at the forefront of a fight pushing legislation to force regulation and cleanup of the class of chemicals and holding manufacturers accountable for PFAS contamination.

Common Dreams: Federal Judge: Class Action Suit Against PFAS Chemical Makers Can Proceed

“These corporations have knowingly contaminated the blood of virtually everyone in the country,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “3M and DuPont have hidden knowledge about the toxicity of PFAS chemicals from their own workers and the public for decades, and those fateful decisions have come home to roost. The court has put the chemical industry on notice that we are a big step closer to the day of reckoning for companies that have pursued profits over protecting Americans’ health.” Reprint of EWG news release

House Press Event for PFAS and California Water Report: 
Waste360: Reps Urge Congress to Act on PFAS Amid New Data From California

The press conference followed the September 25 release of an Environmental Working Group (EWG)report detailing updated PFAS levels throughout California. Rouda was joined by Reps. Dan Kildee (Michigan-05), Debbie Dingell (Michigan-12), Jackie Speier (California-14), Alan Lowenthal (California-47) and Linda Sánchez (California-38).

Trump Administration Farm Bailouts

Portland Press Herald (Maine): Editorial – Our View: No, small family farms should not ‘get out’

And while the Trump administration’s trade war with China was killing small operations, aid meant to counteract trade troubles was flowing to the biggest farms. Of the first $8.4 billion paid out by the administration, more than 50 percent went to just 10 percent of recipients, according to a report from the Environmental Working Group. Reprinted by Central Maine Today.

The Federalist: Trump Is Shamelessly Bribing Farmers With Cash Handouts

Only “active farmers” qualify, with a cap of a staggering $250,000 per “actively engaged” farmer, up from last year’s cap of $125,000. But the definition of an “active farmer” is so lax that, as senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group Anne Schechinger told the Washington Post, qualification “could mean that you call in once a year to a shareholder meeting.”

Algae Blooms

Deseret News: It’s killing dogs and cattle. It’s making people sick. It’s spreading throughout the country. And answers remain elusive

Algae blooms have gripped Utah lakes, and their seasonal spread across the country is on the rise. By the end of August, a record 354 outbreaks had been reported since the beginning of the year, compared to 289 over the same period in 2018, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that researches water pollution.

The Nation’s Health: Toxic algae blooms creating hazards for US public health: Warming temperatures fueling growth

In recent years, hundreds of U.S. ponds, lakes and rivers have tested positive for algae toxins, according to a data analysis of federal and state records by the Environmental Working Group. Sixty-eight percent of people in the U.S. get their drinking water from surface water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Bradenton Times (Bradenton, Fla.): Septic Regulation is Only a Start in the War against Cyanobacteria

A recent report by the Environmental Working Group on the rapid increase that has been observed nationwide in the last decade, with federal and state testing showing cyanobacteria toxins in hundreds of bodies of water across the U.S., warned that the effects of global warming is already causing algal bloom season to begin earlier and last longer because of warmer water temperatures. 

Algal Blooms and Maumee River

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ohio cities want pig manure treated like human waste to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms

The Environmental Law and Policy Center, working with the Environmental Working Group, found 775 hog, cattle, dairy and poultry operations in the Maumee River watershed in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, using aerial photos, satellite imagery and state permit data. That’s 40 percent increase since 2005.

Bedding and Mattresses

MindBodyGreen: 10 Of Our All-Time Favorite Ways To Make Your Bedroom Better For Sleep

Look for one that's made out of natural latex, a material that won't release VOCs after continued use and is super comfortable and temperature-regulating. These four come highly recommended from experts at Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group:

Mother Earth Living: Optimize Your Sleep

According to Tasha Stoiber, senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, crossing a mattress with chemical flame retardants off your list is a good start. Though linked to a host of adverse health effects, from developmental problems to endocrine disruption, you’ll see no mention of the presence of these chemicals on mattress labels, so avoiding them requires a little research.

Body Burden: Overload – a Toxic Love Story

Louisville Courier Journal: How big is your body's toxic burden? New Louisville film explores the issue

This toxic buildup begins even before we are born — more than 200 toxic chemicals were identified in the umbilical cord blood of unborn babies in a study by the Environmental Working Group.

California Lead Bill

Capital & Main: Did California’s Health Dept. Help Lobbyists Fight Lead Bill?

Bill Allayaud, legislative director of the Environmental Working Group, the bill’s sponsor, said this year it was obvious that CDPH was opposed to the bill and so advocates for the legislation didn’t even bother asking for a meeting. 

California Jewelry Safety Act

YubaNet: New CA Law Creates Strictest Lead and Cadmium Limits in Jewelry in U.S.

“There is no safe level of lead exposure, and even low blood lead levels can cause children to have learning and behavioral problems,” said Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “This new law is designed to protect women and children from exposure to toxic metals, reducing the allowable levels of lead and cadmium in jewelry, and sets an example of leadership for the entire country.” Reprint of EWG news release

Cell Phone Radiation

Angle News: Smart phones may leak unsafe levels of radiation, report claims

California has been distrustful of these limits and cell phones’ safety, as have expert groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG). 

Cleaning Products

Go Erie (Erie, Penn.): Tips to make your home a healthier place to live

Swap your conventional household cleaners for products recommended by the Environmental Working Group.


Bioassance Clean Academy: Clean Beauty 101 – Labels Uncomplicated

Jonathan Van Ness chats with Nneka Leiba from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) about why it’s important to pay close attention to ingredients. Nneka is the VP of Healthy Living Science at EWG and shares ingredients of concern, what “good manufacturing practices” means and how to decipher common labels including organic, natural, cruelty-free and vegan.

Elle Canada: What Is A ” Clean” Fragrance?

“Not all fragrance mixtures contain ingredients with health concerns, but without full ingredient disclosure, there is no way for consumers to know exactly what they’re buying,” explains Nneka Leiba, vice-president of the healthy-living science program at the Environmental Working Group, a consumer watchdog.

Kaiser Health News: Skin-Lightening Cream Put a Woman Into a Coma. It Could Happen Again.

It’s unclear whether the FDA could have done anything to prevent her poisoning, said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Reprinted by USA TodayThe Daily Beast,  Bakersfield CalifornianCalifornia HealthlineThe Detroit NewsMSNPhiladelphia InquirerYahoo! News and 64 other media outlets. 

Prevention: 10 Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands for a Natural, Healthy Manicure

“For most of us who paint our nails poorly, we get some polish on our cuticles,” says Nneka Leiba, VP of Healthy Living Science at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). She points to a 2016 study from the EWG and Duke University, which showed that a flame retardant/plasticizer ingredient in some polishes (believed to be an endocrine disruptor), was present in urine samples 10 to 14 hours after polishing.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Everyday Health: Think Before You Pink: What You Need to Know About Pinkwashing

I recommend using the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep website or Healthy Living App to see how products score based on their ingredients’ links to cancer, allergies, and others.

Greatist: These 5 Wellness Trends Come with a Dark Side

Check out EWG’s Skin Deep database as a starter’s guide into whether there are safe, ethical, and sustainable synthetic ingredients that can replace your fave.


MindBodyGreen: The 13 Best Nontoxic Fragrances You'll Want To Wear This Fall

The iconic Michelle Pfeiffer—who started Henry Rose, an EWG-verified fragrance house we'll chat about in a moment—told me once that she more or less stopped wearing all fragrances for a decade because she was at a loss for options. There is still some catching up to do as far as the market goes, but here is a good place to start.


Domino: Branch Basics Cofounder Kelly Love’s Guide to an All-Natural Pregnancy

“A synthetic fragrance can be a proprietary concoction of thousands of chemicals—more than 3,000 chemicals, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group. Basically, the different chemicals fall into the categories of neurotoxins (which affect nerve tissue), asthmagens (which can cause asthma), endocrine disrupters (which affect hormones), obesogens (which affect metabolic function), and carcinogens (which can cause cancer). 

Cumulative Cancer Risk Assessment

Before It’s News: Toxic chemicals in tap water linked to more than 100,000 cancer cases

A recent study from the Environmental Working Group is the first of its kind to conduct a cumulative assessment of cancer risk associated with public drinking water.  And, fair warning: their results will make you want to go out and get yourself a high quality water purification system.

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

Her Campus: Simple Ways to Help the Environment

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the production and distribution of meat products takes a serious toll on our environment. In fact, farms which produce meat products release 10-40% more greenhouse gases than vegetable farms. 

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

The New York Post: To almost everyone’s relief, kale is officially over

And it’s more than just Google trend searches signaling the vegetable’s demise: Earlier this year, kale made its way onto the Dirty Dozen list, an annual compilation of the most pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Women’s Health: You Guys, The Kale Craze Is Officially Done And Dusted

Then, this year, kale made it onto the Dirty Dozen list, meaning the Environmental Working group (EWG) reckons it’s one of the most pesticide-ridden vegetables you can buy.

Root + Revel: Healthy Breakfast On-The-Go: The Best Convenience Foods

All of The Frozen Garden’s smoothies are Non-GMO Project Verified, and they use Certified Organic for any ingredient on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen™ list that are not available locally. Plus, their pouches are BPA-free and can be recycled in most residential recycling programs.

PFAS in Drinking Water

Ohio Valley ReSource: Ohio To Test For Toxic PFAS Chemicals In Drinking Water

An analysis by the Environmental Working Group suggests up to 110 million Americans could have PFAS in their water. EWG reanalyzed data from private firm Eurofins Eaton Analytical, which conducted water sampling for the EPA’s third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, or UCMR. Reprinted byLouisville Public Radio (WFPL), WOUB Public Media     . 

UPI: CDC study to track dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

“They're called forever chemicals because once they get into the environment, they don't degrade,” Tasha Stoiber, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit environmental watchdog agency, told UPI.

Finger Lakes: Seneca Lake-area water systems promise new data on PFAS, while state keeps tight lid on information

In its analysis of PFHxA, the Environmental Working Group describes it as a “breakdown product of stain- and grease-proof coatings on food packaging and household products. Highly persistent in people and the environment.” 

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