Blowing the whistle on FDA plan to push mercury-laced seafood

December 2008

EWG made public internal government documents disclosing the Food and Drug Administration's secret plans to reverse federal warnings that pregnant women and children limit their fish intake to avoid mercury, a neurotoxin especially dangerous to the fetus and infants. EWG obtained both the FDA plan, stamped "CLOSE HOLD," and memos by senior Environmental Protection Agency scientists attacking FDA's rationale. The Washington Post broke the story, and other national stories followed.

Reaction from Capitol Hill was swift and sharp. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., denounced FDA: "Now, in the administration's 11th hour, they are quietly trying to water down advisories for women and children about the dangers of mercury in fish, disregarding sound science on this issue….This backroom bouquet for special interests should be stopped in its tracks. If they slip this through, I will work with the incoming Obama Administration to restore science-based decisions on mercury."

Key Issues, Toxics, Health Concerns: 

Progressing toward a ban of toxic plastic chemical BPA

October 2008

The Science Board of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a stinging rebuke to the agency and embraced EWG arguments that bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin may be a threat to human health. The panel forced FDA to retreat from its stance that trace levels of BPA are safe in food packaging, including infant formula cans and baby bottles. EWG scientists testified, wrote comments and served on the expert panel for the Science Board.

In September, the National Institutes of Health's National Toxicology Program declared that BPA, shown in laboratory tests to disrupt the endocrine system, may alter brain development, cause behavioral problems and damage the prostate glands in fetuses, infants and young children.

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Fighting for New York's water supply

September 2008

Senior energy analyst Dusty Horwitt testified before the New York City Council Environmental Protection Committee on proposed natural gas drilling in the New York City watershed. Natural gas companies wanted to use a process called hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting water laced with toxic chemicals into the ground. The technique threatens environmental health and the safety of public drinking water, not to mention New York's bakers, who attribute their unsurpassed pizza and bagels to the purity of New York City water. EWG agreed with committee chairman James Gennaro that no gas drilling be allowed in the city's watershed

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Fighting to ban Teflon-related compounds

August 2008

In response to an intensive education campaign by EWG, the California state assembly passed a bill banning two Teflon-related chemicals -- perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluoroctanic acid (PFOA) -- from use in food packaging such as burger wrapping and pizza boxes. The chemicals have been linked to cancer and developmental problems in children. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill.  

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Calling on Congress

June 2008

Calling on Congress to account for proposing to cut conservation funding by $285 million -- only 29 days after passing the 2008 farm bill with promises to increase conservation spending. EWG issued two hard-hitting reports detailing the conservation programs slated for the chopping block and analyzing how much conservation funding states would lose if Congress went through with their proposed cuts.

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Winning the debate (just not the vote) on farm subsidy fairness

May 2008

EWG's campaign for equity in farm payment programs triggered 475 editorials from U.S. newspapers clamoring for reform of the farm subsidy system and changed the debate on government supports. President-elect Obama has indicated that he intends to halt farm subsidies to multi-millionaires.

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Sounding the alarm over rocket fuel in drinking water

May 2008

EWG worked intensely to press EPA to crack down on pollution of perchlorate, a rocket fuel component and thyroid toxin, in drinking water. Agency leaders refused and were widely denounced by newspaper editorials and environmentalists.

On May 6, EWG Executive Director Richard Wiles testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at a hearing on legislation by committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to set national safety standards for perchlorate in drinking water.

Leached from military bases and manufacturing plants into water supplies, the chemical has contaminated the drinking water of 40 million people in nearly 30 states. Research shows it disrupts the production of thyroid hormones, essential for brain development. In 2001 EWG put perchlorate on the map by exposing an unethical human experiment: defense contractor Lockheed Martin was giving the chemical to people in a failed attempt to show it was safe.

California officials announced they would reassess a public health goal for perchlorate after EWG and other advocacy groups petitioned them to do so.

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Breaking new ground on toxins in pets

March 2008

EWG launched Pets for the Environment in early 2008 to focus on toxic chemicals in pet food, toys and household furnishings. EWG’s unprecedented study found that companion dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, particularly mercury, flame retardants, stain treatments and grease resistant coatings. Dog Fancy magazine ran a cover story on EWG research on animal body burden.

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Pioneering a new approach to assessing chemical risks

February 2008

EWG testified twice in front of the National Research Council of the National Academies about the dangers of phthalates, industrial plasticizers that disrupt the endocrine system and have been shown to cause developmental malformations in male reproductive systems. Phthalates are banned in Europe for use in cosmetics. 

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