EWG News Roundup (8/4): Regulating Harmful Imported Makeup, Expanding Organic Farming and Choosing Water Filters

A Food and Drug Administration notification to Congress said the agency is severely understaffed for inspecting foreign-made personal care products, according to a bombshell report in the New York Times this week. The FDA is barely able to scratch the surface of foreign cosmetics, only reviewing about 0.3 percent of all imports. Even more troubling, of that paltry number, in 2016 15 percent of the imported cosmetics products that were inspected were found to have adverse effects.

EWG supports recently introduced legislation, the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which would give the FDA the authority and financial support it needs to significantly increase its ability to address the health risks of imported and domestically made cosmetics.

In good news out of nation’s capital this week, the Homegrown Organic Act was introduced by Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire. The proposal would give farmers incentives to transition to organic agriculture by modifying existing voluntary agricultural conservation programs to provide producers with the technical and financial assistance they need.

“Any member of Congress interested in expanding market opportunities for U.S. farmers – while at the same time reducing pesticides, fertilizer and animal waste in drinking water sources, and giving more consumers access to homegrown organic food – should support this bill,” said EWG’s Legislative Director Colin O’Neil. “Rep. Kuster’s common-sense proposal is an example of how the government can work in partnership with family farmers who want to thrive, and also be a good environmental steward.”

And coming off of last week’s massive unveiling of EWG’s National Tap Water Database, we followed up on how to use our water filter buying guide, and why you should be reaching for a water filter instead of expensive and wasteful bottled water.

For additional coverage on those stories and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

EWG’s National Tap Water Database

Country Living: Here’s How to Find Out If Your Drinking Water Is Contaminated

Don't take it for granted that fresh H20 comes spilling out of your faucet at a turn of the tap, but not all water systems are created equal. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new Tap Water Database reveals what's really happening in your pipes — and the potential contaminants that might be lurking there.

The Des Moines Register: Iowans shouldn’t be distracted from risks we face in our water.

I am grateful that the Environmental Working Group has gathered and analyzed this data.

While fireworks and President Donald Trump's latest tweet may draw far more attention, it is important for the people of Iowa to understand the risks we face with our water.

MSN Lifestyle: Your Tap Water Might Not Actually Be Safe

"It's time to stop basing environmental regulations on political or economic compromises, and instead listen to what scientists say about the long-term effects of toxic chemicals and empower Americans to protect themselves from pollutants even as they demand the protective action they deserve from government," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement.

Reader’s Digest: 10 Sneaky Ways Your House Could Be Making You Gain Weight

The water spigot: Depending on your zip code and whether you drink tap water sans filtering, you may be getting a dose of PFOAs with your H2O, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports. The watchdog group found 250-plus industrial and agricultural contaminants present in tap water including PFOAs. Most of the nation's drinking water supplies does pass federal and state regulatory agency testing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. What to do: Check out how your tap water stands up here. If you don't like what you see, EWG's Water Filter Guide can help.

Politico: House tees up debate on Energy and Water title

What’s In That Tap Water? Just because your drinking water utility gets a passing grade from federal regulators doesn’t mean there aren’t dangerous chemicals in your drinking water — that’s the message the Environmental Working Group is underscoring with a massive update to its database compiling monitoring records from nearly 50,000 public water systems across the country. EWG found that between 2010-2015, utilities tested for about 500 different contaminants and found 267 at varying levels in Americans’ drinking water, including 93 linked to cancer, 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage and 63 suspected of causing harm to children or fetuses. More than half of the chemicals found are not federally regulated, meaning the federal government has not decided what constitutes an unsafe level of exposure.

Russia Today: Cancer-causing pollutants detected in most tap water across US - study

“Americans deserve the fullest picture of what’s in the tap water,” Ken Cook, president EWG said in a statement. “But they won’t get that information from the government or, in many cases, from their utilities. The only place they’ll find that is EWG’s drinking water report.”

NOLA.com: What is in your water? See test results for 19 New Orleans-area utilities

More than 3 million people in Louisiana are regularly exposed to unsafe levels of chemicals such as total trihalomethanes and chloroform in their drinking water, according to a new analysis from Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that researches environmental health nationwide. Both total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and chloroform are examples of drinking water contaminants that have been linked to causing cancer.

Santa Fe New Mexican: Small New Mexico communities struggle to deliver water free of uranium and other toxins

Last week’s report by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, found millions of Americans are drinking water that might be unsafe for consumption. The group compiled data from each state and the Environmental Protection Agency to assess more than 250 contaminants in 50,000 public drinking-water systems across the nation. The nonprofit analyzed the data, largely using health guidelines set by the state of California — a more rigorous measure than standards set by the EPA, which regulates just over 90 contaminants.

U.S. News & World Report: Fish Exposed to Wastewater Absorb Many Medications Meant for People

Most municipalities provide customers with water-quality reports for drinking water every year, and last week the nonprofit Environmental Working Group released its new national Tap Water Database.

WVUT PBS: Drinking Water: Legal May Not Equal Safe

Governments set limits on how much pollution can be in drinking water. But Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with EWG who worked on the report, says those limits are determined by what’s feasible and affordable for drinking water utilities.

Big Think: How Contaminated Is Your Drinking Water? This Database Will Tell You

Leiba and colleagues registered a total of 256 contaminants. 81% are known carcinogens. In many places, dozens of these are at levels said to increase the risk of health problems. Though in most places, levels of known carcinogens are within federal guidelines, the EWG hopes to make the aware that they are in fact, present in their drinking water. They may be at legal levels. But according to Leiba, “Legal doesn’t mean safe.”

Cleveland.com: Lake Erie an "outstanding" drinking water source, but toxins remain, report finds

"Just because your tap water gets a passing grade from the government doesn't always mean it's safe," said Ken Cook, president of EWG, in a prepared statement. "It's time to stop basing environmental regulations on political or economic compromises, and instead listen to what scientists say about the long-term effects of toxic chemicals, and empower Americans to protect themselves from pollutants even as they demand the protective action they deserve from government."

Bug Repellent

Rodale’s Organic Life: The Only 4 Natural Insect Repellents That Actually Work

In fact, even the Environmental Working Group (EWG), known for their disdain of any ingredient that is remotely toxic, considers essential oils “not effective” and actually recommends the synthetic active ingredients DEET (20-30%), Picaridin (20%), and IR3535 (20%) as their top picks when it comes to choosing a repellent that gives pregnant women the best chance of avoiding Zika.

Personal Care Products

Vogue: Marisa Tomei’s Age-Defying Beauty Strategy Includes Infrared Saunas and This Cult Concealer

A good way to know what’s good or not is by checking the Environmental Working Group, because it tells you which cosmetics and which sunscreens are better for you. When it comes to beauty, you just have to do your own research.

Farm Subsidies

San Francisco Chronicle: Texas rice farmers hope for increased trade opportunities

Several reasons are behind the decline, including the encroachment of suburban housing developments, which raised land prices to the point where it made more sense to sell than keep farming. Today, Texas accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. rice production, far behind the leader, Arkansas, which accounts for about half.

Nitrate Pollution

Organic Authority: Nation’s Biggest Meat Producers are Killing the Gulf of Mexico, Finds New Report

The runoff is also cited in another recent report released by the Environmental Working Group, which found high nitrate levels in drinking water in 48 states. Nitrate consumption has been connected to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, notes the Guardian.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM

NJ.com: Can’t find Jersey-fresh organic blueberries? Here’s why

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that compiles information on potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides in food and consumer products, maintains a list of 48 fruits and vegetables for which the group analyzes pesticide residue testing data from the USDA. Domestic blueberries were ranked as the 17th most contaminated type of produce. Imported blueberries followed close behind, at No. 20 (strawberries and spinach, at No. 1 and 2, are the worst offenders).

Skin Deep®

Heavy: Top 10 Best Baby Wipes of 2017: Buy, Compare & Save

Babyganics Face, Hand & Baby Wipes- At $19.12 for a pack of 400 baby wipes, Babyganics Face, Hand & Baby Wipes are not the cheapest of the bunch. However, they pack a punch as far as being low toxicity and safe for sensitive skin. These baby wipes receive consistently low ratings on the Environmental Working Group website, meaning you can trust that they are safe to use on your baby’s tender skin. 

Reader’s Digest: Parents, This Is How to Introduce Your Tween to Makeup—Safely

“I recommend complete avoidance of formaldehyde releasers, including DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Imidazolidinyl urea, and Diazolidinyl urea,” says Dr. Ploch. “The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a great database for researching different chemicals.”


Natural Society: 200 Scientists Want Tougher Limits on Chemicals in Personal Care Products

A senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), David Andrews said:

“Other ongoing uses are not addressed by the recent FDA action, and more needs to be done.”

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