EWG News Roundup (10/12): Trump’s War on Children’s Health, Algae Outbreaks Rise 40 Percent in 2018 and More

In the News

Since taking power, the Trump administration has waged an all-out assault on policies that are in place to protect children from toxic chemicals and industrial pollution. This week, EWG detailed all of the ways in which Trump and his EPA  have chiseled away at decades of children’s environmental health progress.

As autumnal weather fast approaches for most of the country, the door is closing on one of the most severe toxic algae bloom outbreak seasons in recent memory. EWG calculated that the instances of blooms of potentially toxic algae in U.S. lakes, rivers and other waterways rose by at least 40 percent this year compared to 2017. We also applauded a contingent of bipartisan federal legislators from Florida who are urging Congress to put provisions into this year’s farm bill that will help combat this growing crisis.

Following pressure by EWG and other environmental and public health groups, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would ban seven food additives that are used in artificial flavors that have ties to cancer.

“Chemicals that could cause cancer should never have been allowed in our food in the first place, especially not hiding behind the confusing label of ‘artificial flavors,’” said Melanie Benesh, EWG’s legislative attorney said of FDA’s action. “The FDA finally did the right thing by taking this important step to better protect consumers.”

In troubling news out of Washington, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General announced that it would be opening an investigation into the agency potentially failing to enforce a critical program that tracks toxic spills into the environment.

And finally, yesterday the Senate confirmed a noted climate change skeptic and oil industry lawyer, Jeffery Bossert Clark, as the head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, where he will be in charge of all civil and criminal environmental litigation. Clark defended BP after the Deepwater oil spill.

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

Farm Bill

The Orange County Register: Irvine quit using synthetic pesticides in 2016, now a farm bill could block such local restrictions

“We fear that in the worst case, it could wipe away all of these city and county ordinances across the country,” said Environmental Working Group legislative director Colin O’Neil, who has been tracking the bill and working with concerned local officials.

Daily Independent: Conflict of interest on farm bailout

Both have been criticized for the decision. Scott Faber, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said “Many taxpayers would be shocked to learn members of Congress who are receiving what by any measure is a lot of money are now also receiving a bailout check ostensibly designed to help struggling farmers. It underscores exactly what’s wrong with the bailout program — that many of the recipients of farm bailout funding are doing just fine.”

FDA Bans Artificial Flavors

Organic Authority: 7 Artificial Flavors Linked to Cancer Banned By FDA

Other groups involved in the action include Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. The petitioners asked a court to order the FDA to make a final decision on this issue in May.

WebMD: FDA Bans Seven Artificial Food Flavorings

Other petitioners included the Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Consumers Union, Environmental Working Group, Improving Kids’ Environments, Natural Resources Defense Council, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and James Huff, former associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Justice Department

The Hill: Senate confirms climate skeptic to head DOJ environment office

“Jeffrey Bossert Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.” 

ThinkProgress: BP’s defense attorney for oil spill confirmed by Senate to become nation’s top environmental lawyer

Ken Cook, president of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, expressed disappointment with the Senate’s confirmation of Cook. In a statement Thursday Cook said, “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.” 

The Washington Times: Senate confirms new head of Justice Department’s environmental unit

“Jeffrey Bosson Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for agriculture subsidies. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”

Hill Reporter: Senate Confirms a Known Climate Change Sceptic to Enforce Environmental Legislation

Environmental groups have been quick to denounce Clark’s confirmation. Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, issued a statement calling Clark’s nomination “good news for polluters”.

Common Dreams: ‘The Guy Who Defended Company That Caused Worst Oil Spill in US History’ Just Confirmed to Head DOJ’s Environmental Division

“Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” warned Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”

Environmental Protection Agency

Chemical Watch: Trump taps former industry executive for EPA’s science arm

NGO the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has criticised the appointment of Mr Dunlap, calling him “a longtime chemical and fossil fuel industry executive”. The group’s president Ken Cook said: “This dumbing down of the agency  that is supposed to use science to protect Americans from toxic pollution is irresponsible, and will have real consequences for public health.”

Asbestos

Righting Injustice: NGOs petition EPA to require asbestos reporting

The NGOs supporting the petition include the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC), and the Safety Chemicals Healthy Families (SCHF).

Cosmetics

Salon: The Kavanaugh father-son cancer powder keg

In 2002, the Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group, National Black Environmental Justice Network, and others launched the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which sought legislation and regulation to remove ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. The UN’s cancer registry and the European Union took steps to warn consumers and ban the use of talc; besides, a cheap natural substitute, used for generations without side effects, was readily available: corn starch.

The Greenwich Sentinel: Column: Breast Cancer Awareness – Should Always Include Reading Labels

One distressing thing I uncovered was that harmful chemicals are hidden behind words like: pure, natural, fragrance and even organic. Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) message to cosmetic manufacturers is, “Shed bad actor ingredients that disrupt the hormone system, cause allergies and may accelerate skin cancer.”

The Oklahoman: Use of green beauty brands is on the rise

A shift in consumer awareness and demand for safer beauty comes as no surprise. In 2015, the Environmental Working Group reported that women use an average of 12 products a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day, and after testing a group of teens’ blood and urine, the group found 16 hormone-altering chemicals, including parabens and phthalates. Reprinted by NewsOK.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Simplemost: What’s Really In Your La Croix? Lawsuit Claims One Ingredient Is Used In Cockroach Insecticide

The chemical limonene, for example, is found in the peels of citrus fruits and is often used as a flavoring or in cleaning products. As a cosmetic ingredient or scent, The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database found it to be of low concern.

EWG VERIFIED™

Buckhead View: Environmental Working Group hosts event in Buckhead

The Environmental Working Group hosted a pop-up in Atlanta Sept. 20 featuring EWG VERIFIED™ products. The pop-up was one of a series of celebrations to celebrate EWG’s 25th anniversary.

Flame Retardants

Organic Spa Magazine: Sleeping Beauty: Why Organic Bedware Matters

A recent study by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group examining flame retardants has shown an elevated presence of these chemicals in children. Another study, published last year in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, found that levels of the flame retardant known as chlorinated Tris, or TDCIPP, rose fifteen-fold in adults from 2002 to 2015, and increased in children by a factor of four.

Glyphosate Petition

Mercola: Petition to Stop Weedkiller in Cereal

The Environmental Working Group and other consumer groups have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the amount of glyphosate residues allowed in oats from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 0.1 ppm, as well as prohibit the use of glyphosate as a preharvest desiccant

Monsanto’s Glyphosate 

Quartz: Even if LaCroix does contain insecticide ingredients, that doesn’t mean its bad for you

Recently, for example, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report claiming glyphosate, an ingredient in a pesticide, was present at “dangerous” levels in all sorts of common foods, including oatmeal and Cheerios. The Washington Post’s food columnist, Tamar Haspel, thoroughly ripped the report apart, criticizing it for being manipulative, fear-mongering, and unscientific. As she notes, the EWG created its own standards for what levels of glyphosate are acceptable in order to make its findings appear far scarier than they actually were.

Newsweek: What Is Linalool? LaCroix Sparkling Water Allegedly Contains Cockroach-Killing Insecticide, Lawsuit Claims

In August, a report by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) discovered trace amounts of a weed-killing chemical called glyphosate in some popular children’s breakfast foods and cereals. Of the 45 products tested, 31 breakfast foods were found to have higher levels of glyphosate than what scientists consider safe for children.

Whole Foods Magazine: A ‘Roundup’ on Glyphosate

The Environmental Working Group has published its analysis of oat-based foods showing, on average, oat-based cereals exceed 400 ppb, reinforcing the benefits of choosing organic for your family. Knowing your level, a phrase I typically reserve for nutrient levels, is now quite easy. 

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

Market Watch: 11 ways to build a Paris climate change accord—in your own community

Meat products are far and away the worst food products when it comes to the greenhouse gases stemming from their production, transportation and consumption, data from the Environmental Working Group found. Lamb is the worst culprit, causing 39.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions for every kilogram eaten.

Nitrate Contamination

Chesapeake Bay Magazine: Drinking Water in 188 Bay Communities May Increase Cancer Risk

Drawing on federal data, the Environmental Working Group contended in a report issued Tuesday that worrisome levels of nitrates, primarily from polluted farm runoff, contaminate the public water supplies of almost 1,700 communities nationwide. The group’s list of community water systems with potentially problematic nitrate levels included 188 in the six Bay watershed states, with 100 alone in Pennsylvania — though many are in portions of the states that fall outside of the watershed.

Mercola: How Most of Our Water Gets Polluted

About 90 million Americans get their water from groundwater sources, and the Environmental Working Group revealed that more than 3 million of them may be getting water with nitrate levels of 5 ppm or higher.

Water Online: EWG Study Indicates Widespread Nitrate Pollution

A new Environmental Working Group study indicating widespread nitrate pollution in U.S. drinking water – at levels linked to increased cancer risk — underscores the need for in-home water filtration, the Water Quality Association said recently.

Water Online: Small Rural Communities Bear Costly Burden Of Nitrate Pollution Of Tap Water

Tap water across the nation is contaminated with an agricultural pollutant linked to cancer, and the problem is worst in small communities that can least afford to fix it, according to a new EWG analysis.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Chemical News: Switch to an organic diet and reduce your pesticide intake by as much as 90%

Much of the fruits are vegetables lined up in stores are riddled in pesticides. In its latest Dirty Dozen report, the Environmental Working Group found conventionally grown strawberries to have the highest levels of pesticide residues, compared to other fruits and vegetables. (Related: Strawberries are the most pesticide-ridden crop you can eat.)

Kris Carr: 11 Life-Changing Tips for Cancer Patients

Organic is definitely best if you can afford it. If not, check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for guidance on avoiding chemical-laden produce. Without a shadow of a doubt, my daily, low-glycemic green juice practice has allowed me to thrive in spite of my obstacles. My basic juicing rule for patients is a 3:1 ratio—three veggies to one low-glycemic fruit.

Chromium-6 in Tap Water

Shared: Tests Reveal Houston’s Drinking Water Contains Cancer-Causing Agent

Unfortunately, Houston isn’t the only city with dealing with chromium-6 contamination.

In 2016, a report by the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group revealed that nearly 200 million Americans are exposed to unsafe levels of the harmful chemical. 

PFAS in Tap Water

Arizona Daily Star: Tucson Water: PFAS levels below EPA recommendations make drinking water safe 

Some researchers are calling for even lower levels, with a 5-year-old Harvard University study urging no more than 1 part per trillion PFAS. The advocacy-based Environmental Working Group says there is no safe PFAS level in drinking water, based in part on a German study.

FairWarning: Chilling News About a Warming Planet

The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, has estimated that more than 110 million Americans have been exposed to the chemicals in their drinking water. For the purposes of the lawsuit, an exact figure may not matter except that it’s big. The suit isn’t asking for cash penalties but for the companies–3M, DuPont and Chemours–to  create an independent panel to study and confirm the health consequences of PFAS blood contamination, Sharon Lerner of The Intercept explains.

Water Online: Congress Passes Measure To Dramatically Restrict Major Source Of PFAS Contamination In Drinking Water

EWG led efforts to secure the provision to the FAA bill, holding multiple meetings with lawmakers and staff to spotlight the extent of the PFAS contamination crisis, and marshaling the evidence in support of less toxic firefighting foam alternatives. The PFAS measure attached to the FAA reauthorization bill is one of only a few pieces of legislation focused on drinking water contamination to pass Congress in years. Recent research by EWG estimates that roughly 110 million Americans could have PFAS-contaminated drinking water.

TCP in Tap Water

The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.): Hemet sues Dow Chemical and Shell Oil over contaminated drinking water

Hemet’s lawsuit, filed in Riverside’s federal district court for the Central District of California, and the Environmental Working Group’s report both contend that Dow Chemical and Shell Oil were aware that TCP could migrate from the soil and contaminate groundwater.

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