EWG News Roundup (9/28): Calif. Leads Nation to Protect Kids from Lead, Trump Fights Pesticide Ban, Top Children’s Health Official Ousted at EPA and More

Last weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law three landmark proposals to protect children from exposure to lead. The state will now require licensed day care centers to test their tap water for lead, demand doctors tell parents about blood lead test standards, and make state agencies provide more information to the public about blood lead test rates, sources of lead that poison children, and how the lead is removed or abated.

“We thank Gov. Brown for giving the issue of lead poisoning the action it deserves,” said Bill Allayaud, California director of government affairs for EWG. “There is no safe level of lead and the neurological damage it can cause in young children can last a lifetime. That is why it is so critical the state take these additional steps to protect California’s most vulnerable population from further exposure to lead.”

Leaders in the House and Senate included a provision in legislation to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and strengthen disaster programs that will give commercial airports the option to switch to firefighting foams that do not include the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS. Under current law, airports are required to use firefighting foams that contain these chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, kidney disease and other health issues. And firefighting foam is a known major source of PFAS chemicals in drinking water. EWG’s ongoing research on the growing crisis estimates roughly 110 million Americans could have PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

This week EWG filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Department of Agriculture to disclose details on the taxpayer-funded payments to farmers through President Trump’s $12 billion bailout for growers impacted by the president’s trade war. EWG asked that the USDA turn over the names and addresses of corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat farmers receiving the payments and how much each is getting.

“Under law, President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue are required to make the details about these payments public,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “One way or the other, EWG plans to get this information so that taxpayers who are paying the tab know where their money is going.”

Despite a federal court order directing EPA to ban a pesticide that damages children’s brains, the Trump administration is stubbornly fighting to keep it legal – further evidence that the administration places the interests of the chemical and agribusiness industries above children’s health.

 “No one should be surprised that President Trump and his EPA are still fighting efforts to protect children and farmworkers from this dangerous pesticide,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Cancelling the scheduled ban of chlorpyrifos was one of the president’s very first gifts to the chemical industry and Big Ag interests that helped put him in office. It’s time for the EPA to accept the science, accept the court’s ruling, and ban chlorpyrifos for good.”

In more bad news for children’s health, the EPA’s top children’s health official was abruptly put on administrative leave, which could be a prelude to shutting the office she ran. It has been rumored that the Trump administration has been eyeing the elimination of the children’s environmental health office. Many of the decisions by former EPA head Scott Pruitt and acting chief Andrew Wheeler have blatantly favored the interests of chemical companies and agribusiness over the health of children.

 “The dismissal of Dr. Ruth Etzel shows the unrelenting hostility this administration has toward protecting the environmental health of children,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “It’s sickening to see how every day an agency that is supposed to protect kids is actively working in ways that will harm them.”

EWG, joined by food and nutrition companies including MegaFood, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, MOM’s Organic Market, Nature’s Path, One Degree Organic Foods, National Co+op Grocers and Happy Family Organics petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to sharply limit glyphosate residues allowed on oats and prohibit the pesticide’s use as a pre-harvest drying agent. The petition also asks the EPA to set a stricter limit for imports coming from countries with less protective standards. This simple change could significantly reduce a source of the pesticide in Americans’ diets.

And to end the week on a high note, EWG hosted two EWG VERIFIED™ after-hours pop-ups this week. People in D.C. and Austin, Texas, met with EWG scientists to learn more about personal care products that are free from EWG's chemicals of concern. So far, 1,325 products have been approved for the EWG VERIFIED™ mark.

For coverage on these developments and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

California Lead Bills

Bloomberg Environment: Day Care Centers in California Must Test Drinking Water for Lead (subscription)

In addition to the testing at about 10,000 child care centers, the other bills also require the state to report blood-testing rates and make data about lead testing, exposure, sources, and removal efforts on a county-level available to the public. They were developed as a package by the Environmental Working Group.

Cabinet Report: New laws expand efforts to limit childhood lead exposure

An analysis of Medi-Cal billing data by the Environmental Working Group showed that nearly three-fourths of Medi-Cal enrolled children were not tested for lead exposure between 2012 and 2016. Meanwhile, AB 2370–authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena–calls for the Department of Social Services and the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt testing requirements no later than January, 2021 to ensure that drinking water at child care centers does not contain elevated lead levels.

EDF Health Blog: California becomes eighth state to require licensed child care centers to test and remediate lead in water

California’s new law requires licensed centers built prior to 2010 to test their drinking water for lead between January 2020 and January 2023 and continue testing every five years thereafter. Environmental Working Group (EWG) sponsored the legislation (as part of a suite of California bills addressing lead) as well as the accompanying budget appropriation.


Popville: Environmental Working Group’s EWG Verified Shop Opens in Cleveland Park

EWG’s website says: “With thousands of personal care and consumer products on the market, it can be overwhelming to know which ones are safer and healthier for your family. The EWG VERIFIED™ mark does the work for you. When you see the EWG VERIFIED™ mark on a product, you can be sure it’s free from EWG’s chemicals of concern and meets our strictest standards for your health.

Hi-tech Chic: Environmental Working Group Celebrating 25 Years of Implementing EWG VERIFIED™ Consumer Products

Environmental Working Group (EWG) drives companies to create healthier and safer products by marking consumer products with EWG VERIFIED™. This year Environmental Working Group (EWG) is celebrating their 25th anniversary with a series of celebrations with EWG VERIFIED™ products. Atlanta and Washington, DC events have already taken place, however, the next will be in Austin, Texas on September 28th with Dallas, Texas currently TBD.

Glyphosate Petition

POLITICO: EPA asked to reduce glyphosate tolerance measure

The Environmental Working Group and a handful of food companies have petitioned EPA to reduce the tolerance level for glyphosate in oats and to ban use of the weed killer as a pre-harvest drying agent for oats. The request comes after EWG released a controversial report earlier this year showing trace amounts of the herbicide in popular oat-based foods such as children’s cereal and granola bars.

Whole Foods Magazine: Glyphosate Petition Submitted to EPA

The Environmental Working Group and other food companies sent a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency this week, calling for more stringent limits on the amount of glyphosate residues allowed on oats and a prohibition on the pesticide’s use as a pre-harvest drying agent.

Hurricane Florence and CAFOs

The New Yorker: After Florence, Manure Lagoons Breach, and Residents Brace for the Rising Filth

After conferring with Soren Rundquist, the director of geospatial analysis at an advocacy organization called Environmental Working Group, it was determined that these lagoons unleashed all of their contents, an estimated 7.3 million gallons of waste—including decades-old sludge that Kemp described as “the worst constituents of hog waste concentrated”—into tributaries of the South River and the Northeast Cape Fear River.

Rolling Stone: Hurricane Florence: When Climate Change Meets Bad Policy

The pork industry benefits from incredibly lax regulation. “The state’s top five hog-producing counties alone produce 15.5 million tons of manure annually,” Doug Bock Clark reported in Rolling Stone earlier this year. “An analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that 160,000 people living in the region may be harmed by pig waste. And those victims are disproportionately minorities, according to studies conducted by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.”

Vice News: Alligators, dead chickens, and E. coli: This is what lurks in the Florence floodwaters

One breached hog lagoon in Duplin County spilled 2.2 million gallons of untreated swine waste, according to Megan Thorpe, a spokeswoman for the NC DEQ. But based on an independent analysis by the Environmental Working Group, an estimated 7.3 million gallons of swine waste have spilled from at least two completely breached lagoons.

Trump Agribusiness Bailout

Washington Post: Two U.S. Senators applying for bailout money for farmers under White House program

There is no rule against a lawmaker receiving the aid. And 33 members of Congress — directly or through their immediate family members — received federal farming subsidies over the past two decades, amounting to a collective $15 million from 1995 to 2016, according to the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog group that probes agricultural subsidies.

Congressional Scorecard

Tampa Bay Times: Environment, guns divide Gus Bilirakis and Chris Hunter

Bilirakis earned a zero percent 2017 score, and an 8 percent lifetime score, for his voting record on environmental issues from the League of Conservation Voters. He cast 17 votes over the past four years the Environmental Working Group Action Fund considers “toxic pollution votes,” earning him a zero percent pro-environment rating.

The Devil May Know

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel: C8 documentary to be shown at Smoot Theatre

A panel discussion will follow the presentation, said Kristin Lazure, a producer of “The Devil We Know.” The panel is being organized by the Environmental Working Group, a national environmental group, Lazure, who is with Atlas Films, said.

Algal Blooms

Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.): Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis: Environmental records differ on climate change, algae blooms

His voting record prompted two environmental groups to give him failing ratings. The nonpartisan but liberal-leaning League of Conservation Voters gave him a lifetime rating of 2 percent. The nonpartisan Environmental Working Group gave him a 0 on a recent environmental voting scorecard.


Legal Reader: Asbestos Continues to be a National Threat

In an interview with PBS, Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, said, “The EPA has received criticism, including from us, with regards to the way it is proposing to conduct this risk assessment of asbestos.” The “problem formulation” omits certain past findings related to asbestos risk, such as “legacy uses,” including the left-over asbestos found in buildings.


Toronto Sun: A cleaner conscience

Eco-Max’s lavender dish soap also gets a nod from the Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org , a U.S.-based non-profit, non-partisan organization that has a handy list of terms, like “surfactant” and “active ingredient” on its website, as well as an overview of over 2,500 household cleaning products.

Cosmetics – Skin Deep

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Beauty By Earth Nominated for Best Natural Skincare in Texas

Another Organization that approves of Beauty By Earth's clean and non-toxic ingredients is the Environmental Working Group. As you can see here: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/company/Beauty_by_Earth/  they are highly ranked on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database, a non-profit Organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, public lands and corporate accountability, dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

POPSUGAR: 5 Ways to Make the Transition to Clean Beauty

Educate Yourself – The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a lifeline when you start to delve into the clean beauty world. It is a nonprofit organization comprised of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, communication experts, and programmers who all want to make the world a safer place for us. It researches, studies, and tests food and cosmetics to check for toxic ingredients and then shares the results online and in its app. The skin-deep section of the website is dedicated to all things beauty. It has a database of over 80,000 products currently in its system.

Food Scores

The Kitchn: Is Canned Food as Nutritious as Fresh Food?

The thought of consuming any amount — even a small amount deemed safe by the FDA — may make you feel uneasy. If so, Orenstein notes that “most manufacturers have removed BPA from cans as a precaution.” You can search the Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores site to find out if a brand is suspected to use BPA.

Monsanto’s Glyphosate

Business Insider: There's even more evidence that the main ingredient in Monsanto's popular weed-killer is hurting honeybees

This summer, a jury in San Francisco ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with cancer after using Roundup for years. After the trial, the Environmental Working Group released a report saying residues of the chemical had been found in a variety of common foods, including granola bars and cereal. Reprinted by the San Antonio Express-News and 14 other media outlets.

Quartz: Monsanto’s most popular weedkiller is giving the world’s bees stomachaches

Earlier this year, Monsanto made headlines when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a study showing glyphosate residues were in a whole range of everyday food items, including oatmeal, Cheerios, and granola. But the science behind that report was shaky, and it was the subject of criticism, in part because EWG set its own definition for what an acceptable level of glyphosate in food, rather than follow prior, scientifically backed levels.

Shopper’s Guide

NBC2: KPRC (Houston, Texas): Foods with the most pesticides, how to avoid them

For people wanting to avoid exposure to pesticides in produce and watch what they spend, there are some fruits and veggies that are more important to buy organic than others, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Deerfield, Fla.): Trim pesticides in produce

It’s time to tune into the Dirty Dozen, based on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) analysis of USDA tests on pesticide residues on conventionally grown produce. Even if you wash and peel produce, pesticide residues in conventional fruits and vegetables persist; almost 70 percent of conventional produce samples showed pesticide residues, according to the USDA. A total of 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products were present in the produce sampled.

The Morning Call (Allentown, Penn):Environmental Nutrition: Trim pesticides in produce

It's time to tune into the Dirty Dozen, based on the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) analysis of USDA tests on pesticide residues on conventionally grown produce. Even if you wash and peel produce, pesticide residues in conventional fruits and vegetables persist; almost 70 percent of conventional produce samples showed pesticide residues, according to the USDA.

Tap Water Database – PFAS

Environmental Health News: Derrick Z. Jackson: Action needed to address the US military’s PFAS contamination

A report from the Environmental Working Group says as many as 110 million Americans may be drinking PFAS-laced water. Nowhere, however, is the problem as acute as it appears to be on U.S. military sites where PFAS compounds have been heavily used for training in fire suppression and the chemicals have been routinely allowed to drain into groundwater.

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