EWG News Roundup (9/18): Harmful Food Additives, Trump Disses Climate Science and More

This week, EWG released an analysis that breaks down the state of the science for food additives and provides a list of harmful ones to avoid. EWG’s bottom-line advice for families: Read ingredient labels to avoid risky additives, and choose fresh whole foods when possible.

Also this week, EWG President Ken Cook wrote an essay about the new book Exposure, by Rob Bilott, the Ohio attorney who exposed DuPont's coverup of the dangers of the cancer-causing fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS. In the first of a three-part review, Cook documents the corporate coverups and lies Bilott uncovered.

On Monday, President Trump appeared with California state officials at a briefing on the wildfires currently wreaking havoc on the West Coast. During the meeting, President Trump entered into a terse exchange with a top state official, who urged the president not to ignore climate change science and its role in fueling the fires. “I don’t think science knows, actually,” said Trump. 

“President Trump is an existential threat in so many ways to this country, its people and the entire planet, it’s difficult to keep count,” said EWG President Ken Cook, a Bay Area resident. “His refusal to embrace and act on the science of climate change mean bigger fires that destroy more property and devastate the lives of countless families.”

A newly released Government Accountability Office report shows that many recipients of President Trump’s farmer bailouts may not actually be farmers, despite the requirement they provide either “active personal labor,” “active personal management,” or a combination.

“The USDA’s definition of ‘active personal management’ is incredibly vague,” said Anne Weir Schechinger, EWG’s senior economics analyst. “People with minimal ties to farms can – and do – receive huge payments from the federal coffers just by dialing into a few shareholder conference calls a year, without ever having to set foot on the farm or get their hands dirty.”

And finally, EWG delved into recently released Department of Defense information showing PFAS contamination on military sites, the plethora of health risks posed by factory farms and the newly introduced “skinny” COVID-19 stimulus plan that neglects families and farm workers.

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

PFAS Suspected at 700 Military Bases 

E&E News: List of potentially contaminated military sites tops 700 (subscription)

The department has added 34 new military installations that may be contaminated because of the military's use of aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, the Environmental Working Group said today. AFFF is used to extinguish unconfined fires.

KRDO (Colorado Springs, Colo.): Environmentalists criticize DOD response to chemical clean up near military bases

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that focuses on protecting human health and the environment criticized the DOD for not addressing the chemical issues sooner following Tuesday's hearing.

COVID-19 and Farm Workers

Reuters: U.S. details up to $14 billion in new aid for farmers

“Once again, the Trump administration is funneling too much money to farmers that do not need it and not enough to those that are facing economic ruin,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “The only plausible explanation is that this is just old-fashioned vote buying.”

Mother Earth News: Farmworkers at Risk During the Pandemic

According to the Environmental Working Group, as of mid-July, only eight states have mandatory protections in place for farmworkers, including personal protective equipment, distancing requirements, disinfection, testing, and housing and transportation adjustments.  


PV Magazine: FERC adopts big utilities’ narrative in PURPA ruling

With this ruling, FERC adhered to a strict definition of QF’s megawatt capacity that limits renewable energy generation’s ability to compete with utility-owned natural gas facilities on dispatchabilit

Algae Bloom Economic Analysis

Jefferson Public Radio (Redding, Calif.): The Rising Cost Of Harmful Algae Blooms

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) started counting, and found more than a Billion dollars spent since 2010 cleaning up harmful algae blooms.


Indiana Prairie Farmer: What water-monitoring project reveals about water quality

The Environmental Working Group issued a report in the early 1990s with shock value. It included Fort Wayne, Ind., on a list of U.S. cities where atrazine was above recommended levels in drinking water.


Washington Post: The Energy 202: Joe Biden's ethanol push to woo Iowa farmers sets up tension with environmentalists

Scott Faber, the senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said that, while some biofuels made from agricultural waste or algae are more energy-efficient than traditional ethanol, the biofuel industry “lost their chance to be a low-carbon alternative” by lobbying against stronger emissions standards. 


Vox: Why North Carolina has giant lagoons of pig poop

map of animal waste in North Carolina, from the Waterkeeper Alliance, local Riverkeeper groups, and the Environmental Working Group

California Oil Wastewater to Iriigate Fields

Inside Climate News: In a Dry State, Farmers Use Oil Wastewater to Irrigate Their Fields, but is it Safe?

Bill Allayaud, the California Director for Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said in an email that experts need to test other organic and industrial chemicals that may be present in oil production, and not just boron, salt and arsenic. "We waited years for this report and the main conclusion was "'we need more study,'" he said

Cleaning Products

Environmental Health News: Disinfection dangers: How to avoid viruses without exposing yourself to toxics

Look up your cleaning products on the internet and consult vetted resources, such as the Environmental Working Group's list for safe cleaning products as well as the CDC and EPA lists for effective disinfectant products. 

Greatist: The Safest Way to Eat at a Restaurant Right Now, According to an MD

Carry your own hand sani so you’ll know it’s made up of at least 60 percent alcohol and is from a brand that’s free of contaminants. (Try perusing the Environmental Working Group’s list of good quality hand sanitizers.)

MindBodyGreen: How To Clean, Dry & Maintain Your Shower Curtain To Prevent Mold

Ventilating your bathroom is always important," Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, previously told mbg. "Open the window, turn on the fan, and make sure your bathroom dries out. Remove that moisture to make sure your shower curtain can dry."

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Philadelphia Magazine: 8 Ways to Cut Back on Plastic Waste in Your Beauty and Wellness Routines

Evaluate the brands you use on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website, which rates products for safety and healthiness.

 Black Beauty: Black women at higher risk of using toxic skincare products

In 2016, EWG Skin Deep found that less than 25% of cosmetic products marketed to black women score low in potentially hazardous ingredients.

Farm Subsidies

The Counter: “The South hit the jackpot”: Federal watchdog finds Trump administration’s trade relief program unevenly compensated farmers in some states

The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that has long criticized farm subsidies, has argued that the active personal management rule allows people who barely farm to receive subsidies intended to keep the agricultural economy afloat. “The USDA’s definition of ‘active personal management’ is incredibly vague,” said Anne Schechinger, the group’s senior economic analyst, in a press release.

Successful Farming: Equitable distribution of farm aid dollars

The Environmental Working Group and others have been critical that USDA aid doesn't reach the most struggling farms while big farms qualify for support for decades. Here's how Farm Service Administrator Richard Fordyce responds in an exclusive interview. 


Eat This, Not That: The 50 Unhealthiest Guilty Pleasure Foods on the Planet

Banned in the United Kingdom and Canada, potassium bromate is still lurking in some U.S. foods such as pizza, wraps, rolls, bread crumbs, and bagel chips, according to a 2015 analysis by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG). The issue? A 1982 study found the dough strengthener induced tumors in rats and led the EPA to conclude bromate is a "probable human carcinogen.  

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

The Beet: The Number One Food You Should Be Eating But Probably Aren’t: Lentils
They’re actually one of the most climate-friendly foods, according to the Environmental Working Group. As a comparison, they produce almost 40 times less greenhouse gas emissions than lamb, the food with the most impact on the planet.


Inside EPA: EPA Officials Eye ‘Other Opportunities’ For Burn Test Of PFAS Surrogates (subscription)

Environmentalists argue that PFAS -- which have been dubbed “forever” chemicals due to an inability to break down their strong carbon-fluorine bond -- fail to be destroyed by incineration. For instance, scientists with the Environmental Working Group recently published a study in Chemosphere that found burning PFAS does not effectively destroy the compounds, but instead returns the same chemicals or their byproducts back into the environment.

Newsweek: 'Forever Chemical' Research Delayed Due to COVID-19, Pentagon Says

According to May information from the Environmental Working Group, PFAS has been found in groundwater sources near 678 military bases. In coordination with a provision in the 2020 National Defense Act, the military is expected to prohibit the usage of PFAS after October 2024. Reprinted by  KYR News

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Yahoo! News: 6 rules for eating healthy on a budget

The most simple way to do this is to check the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. These lists break down which foods are the most important to buy organic (most laden with pesticides) and which are likely to be “cleaner” even if not organic.

Livestrong: How Bad Is It Really to Eat Non-Organic Foods to Save Money?

If you do have the financial freedom to be a bit choosy, follow the Environmental Working Group's Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists, which highlight the fruits and vegetables that are the least and most contaminated with pesticide residue.

Tap Water Database

Ensia: Thirsting for Solutions

“A lot of these folks are farmworkers, who are [unwittingly] helping to poison themselves,” says Anne Schechinger, a senior analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a partner in this reporting project). Reprinted by Consumer ReportsGreat Lakes Now and The Guardian

Food Tank: How a Land Trust in Iowa is Combatting Big Ag

Industrial agriculture’s excessive use of fertilizers is contaminating the water supply, hurting small Iowa farmers and the public, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group.

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