EWG News Roundup (12/14): EWG VERIFIED™ Coming to a Big Box Store Near You, Farm Bill Reaches the Finish Line and More

This week, Procter & Gamble announced that two of its new Herbal Essences products would be sporting the EWG VERIFIED™ seal. This news is major, as it is the first time the EWG VERIFIED seal will appear on big box store shelves nationwide.

Congress finally passed the 2018 Farm Bill following years of debate. Although it’s still not perfect, there were many major environmental health wins in the final package – including increased funding for conservation programs that actually protect our water and the elimination of a deeply troubling provision in the initial House bill that would have preempted local regulations restricting the use of pesticides in public places like parks, playgrounds and schools.

EWG published an analysis of court documents that show North Carolina state regulators are greatly underperforming in their role of overseeing the state’s enormous factory farming industry. Newly discovered testimony by the person in charge of inspecting the approximately 2,200 swine operations details a systemic and dangerous lack of oversight. 

“These documents show what many residents struggling to live next to industrial factory farms have known for years,” said EWG Senior VP for Agriculture and Natural Resources Craig Cox. “North Carolina’s politically powerful pork and poultry industry profits while putting public health at risk as state regulators turn a blind eye.”

The Trump administration officially released its long anticipated repeal of the Obama-era Clean Water Rule – a policy that protected vital drinking water sources for roughly 117 million Americans from industrial and farming pollution.

And finally, we took a look at the recent anti-climate stance taken by the right-wing, industry-backed policy group American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Since taking this stance on climate change, the group has been hemorrhaging corporate members that believe ALEC’s latest posture is out of step with their own.

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

EWG VERIFIED™ Herbal Essences Shampoos

Bloomberg News: Revenge of the Chemistry Nerds: P&G Teams With Health Watchdog

The Environmental Working Group just helped the world's largest consumer company reinvent a 1971 shampoo. Has the long-time industry gadfly become a de facto regulator? In August 2015, Procter & Gamble Co. held a focus group for its Herbal Essences shampoo—a brand launched in 1971 and inspired by wildflowers, herbs and fresh mountain water. But during the sessions, something much less peaceful came up: repeated references to the industry’s long-time tormentor, the Environmental Working Group. Reprinted by MSN and Yahoo! Finance.

Allure: Two New Herbal Essences Shampoos Are the First Mass Hair-Care Products to Be EWG Verified

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit organization that, in its own words, "empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment." That includes a significant focus on ingredients in self-care and beauty products like sunscreen, which the group rates according to its safety criteria in an annual guide. And now, the EWG is expanding the visibility of its standards by offering the EWG Verified mark to a very select group of products, two of which are Herbal Essences shampoos.

The Rose Sheet: Strange Bedfellows: P&G To Launch Herbal Essences Shampoos With ‘EWG Verified’ Mark (subscription)

The consumer goods giant’s patronage of the Environmental Working Group’s ‘EWG Verified’ program could be a case of “If you can’t beat them, join them.” P&G says the mark will serve to reassure consumers that the Herbal Essences products meet the clean beauty standards of “very tough critics.”

2018 Top Lobbyists

The Hill: Top Lobbyists 2018

Welcome to The Hill’s Top Lobbyists 2018. Here you’ll find the most distinguished and accomplished professionals from the influence world who are on the front lines of the nation’s most consequential political and policy battles. Grass Roots – Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group.

Farm Bill

New York Times: Opinion – The Farm Bill Ignores the Real Troubles of U.S. Agriculture

Many of these subsidies aren’t even going to rural farmers working the land: The Environmental Working Group has found that nearly 18,000 Americans living in the nation’s largest cities received more than $63 million in farm subsidies in 2015 and 2016.

Washington Post: Congress just passed an $867 billion farm bill. Here’s what’s in it.

The Environmental Working Group, which tracks federal farm subsidies, has criticized this provision as a wasteful giveaway. Congressional Republicans argued the expansion would encourage more people to be involved in farming.

HuffPost: New Farm Bill Won’t Save Small Farmers

The top 10 percent of farm payment recipients received 62 percent of the funds in 2016, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that advocates for changes to farm programs. 

Pacific Standard: What Will the New Farm Bill Mean for Key Programs Like SNAP?

"Although no farm bill is perfect, the farm bill released today rejects pesticide riders, preserves existing conservation compliance requirements, and helps more farmers transition to organic farming than ever before," Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the non-profit Environmental Working Group, said in a statement Tuesday.

Reason: The New Farm Bill Would Send Even More Welfare to the Super Rich (and Their Extended Families)

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has, over the last several years, tracked the amount of money "city slickers and beach bums" receive from federal farm bills. In 2017, EWG reported that "19,832 people in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other big cities received $108 million in farm subsidies." That was up from 17,836 people and $63 million in the two years prior. Reprinted by Before It’s News.

Environmental Protection Agency Rollback of Clean Water Policy

USA Today: Trump EPA takes aim at Obama-era clean water rules, prompting outcry from environmentalists

“Even a child understands that small streams flow into large streams and lakes – which provide drinking water for so many Americans,” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources for the Environmental Working Group. “By removing safeguards and allowing industry to dump pollutants into these water sources, Trump’s EPA is ensuring more contamination challenges for utilities and dirtier water for their customers.”

Baltimore Sun: Chesapeake Bay advocates raise concern about Trump proposal pulling back federal regulation of streams and wetlands

The Environmental Working Group said the Trump rule could affect drinking water sources for 117 million Americans. While the water sources themselves may be subject to clean water regulations, environmentalists said, streams, ponds and wetlands connected to larger waterways can pass along pollution. Marshes, in particular, serve as filters for pollution.

Think Progress: Golf course owners, farmers, property developers greet Trump water protections rollback

“Even a child understands that small streams flow into large streams and lakes – which provide drinking water for so many Americans,” said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group in a statement. “By removing safeguards and allowing industry to dump pollutants into these water sources, Trump’s EPA is ensuring more contamination challenges for utilities and dirtier water for their customers.”


Pacific Standard: North Carolinians Want to Hold Companies and Regulators Accountable for Toxic Hog Waste

However, even a stronger permit would require enforcement to make sure operators are complying. Within the state's Division of Soil & Water Conservation, this happens rarely; an Environmental Working Group report published Thursday gathered findings from neighbors' recent nuisance lawsuits, which show a pattern of failures in state oversight: The state checks in on operators just once a year—and those who do so are stretched thin, with as many as 244 operations to one inspector. And inspections may miss leaks into the groundwater below.


USA Today: Dreaming of a green Christmas? More shoppers look for gifts good for the environment

The Environmental Working Group - The non profit (EWG.org) verifies a wide range of products after determining they do not contain certain chemicals, and are safe and healthy to use.

Women’s Health: The 11 Best Natural Makeup Brands, According To A Beauty Editor

Another great resource: the Environmental Working Group. “The EWG started the EWG Verified program as a way to help consumers recognize products that do not contain harmful ingredients, fully disclose ingredients, and are made with sustainable manufacturing practices,” says Carla Burns, EWG research analyst. “The best way to tell if a product contains chemicals of concern is by checking the label or by using resources like EWG’s Skin Deep database or Healthy Living app."

DC Refined: Rachel Mulcahy of Ivy Wild answers your clean beauty questions

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource that we use to stay up to date on what's evolving in the research into ingredients and our understanding of non-toxic ingredients. EWG has rolled out a certification, but many brands still aren't certified, and it's likely a lengthy process, so we're keeping an eye out.

Dr. Axe: Dr. Axe’s Healthy Holiday Gift Guide (Including the #1 Mattress I Trust)

Skip the health hazards in a tube and reach for this natural toothpaste, one of the first to achieve Environmental Working Group’s EWG Verified certification. EWG boosts a long history calling of out toxic ingredients in products. Since launching its Skin Deep Cosmetics Database more than a decade ago, it’s easier than ever to find safer personal care products — and avoid the worst ones. The EWG Verified seal ensures the product meets strict labeling and ingredient criteria.


Mercola: The STINK: Why Dangerous Chemical Fragrances Are Used to Make Clothes Smell

California has taken a more proactive approach to the health of their citizens. In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group, researchers found 287 chemicals in the cord blood of newborns. These babies were essentially born pre-polluted before ever consuming a single manufactured product.

Monsanto’s Glyphosate

Food Navigator: Kellogg latest to be targeted in glyphosate residue lawsuit, but courts not proving very receptive, say attorneys

At 30-250ppb (parts per billion), which is 0.03-0.25ppm (parts per million), the levels of glyphosate Kien alleges were in the Kellogg’s products tested by the Environmental Working Group in August 2018 are well below permitted Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thresholds for glyphosate in oats (set at 30 ppm or 20,000 ppb).

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

Eating Well: The Paleo Diet: Is Eating Like Our (Very Distant) Ancestors Really a Good Idea?

According to the Environmental Working Group, between 1971 and 2010 the worldwide production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds, while the global population grew by just 81 percent in comparison. EWG estimates that “at this rate, production will double by 2050 to approximately 1.2 trillion pounds of meat per year, requiring more water, land, fuel, pesticides and fertilizer and causing significant damage to the planet and global health.”

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Live Science: All About Apples: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts and History

In 2018, the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environment and human health organization, concluded that 98 percent of conventional apples had pesticide residue on their peels. However, the group also said that "the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure." [Infographic: Guide to Pesticides in Produce]

Well+Good: The biggest label-reading mistakes you’re making at the grocery store

“Then, for produce, I would start with buying organic for the fruits and vegetables on theEnvironmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. Those two areas are the most important, and then it comes down to what’s accessible to you and what you can afford.”

Tap Water Database

Business Insider: Erin Brockovich is warning about an emerging drinking-water crisis in the US. Here's how she recommends you protect yourself.

The first thing you can do if you're worried about the quality of your tap water is read your local water report. The EPA makes an annual drinking-water report available online, and there's also an independent tap-water database from the Environmental Working Group.

Quartz: How to buy a water filter that actually filters out your local contaminants

But the Environmental Working Group, a health advocacy non-profit, has compiled roughly 28 million water records from nearly 50,000 American water utilities reports into an easier to use database here. The EWG database compares detected contaminant levels to state and national averages, as well as to health guidelines. It makes it pretty clear that in the US, most people are drinking water that is legally “safe” but isn’t actually risk-free. Every zip code turns up some form of contamination.

PFAS in Drinking Water

UPI: Cancer-causing chemicals lead to more testing of drinking water

2017 analysis conducted by the Environmental Working Group and researchers at Northeastern University showed contamination in nearly every state, with the highest levels in California and the eastern part of the country.

Arizona Daily Star: Upgrade at Tucson Water treatment plant to remove more PFAS pollutants

There have been warnings from some scientists and the Environmental Working Group that PFAS can be harmful even at levels below what’s in the treatment plant’s water today, or at worst, that there is no safe level.

Tribune News Service: Commentary: Congress needs to take action on toxins

PFAS are plentiful in our homes and workplaces; they are used to make non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting, food packaging, fire retardants and more. Unfortunately, they are equally ubiquitous in the environment, with 172 known PFAS contamination sites in 40 states. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 1,500 drinking water systems, serving up to 110 million Americans, may be contaminated with PFAS.

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