EWG News and Analysis
The latest from EWG’s staff of experts >>
EWG News Roundup (2/17): Pruitt’s Emails, DuPont’s $671M Teflon Settlement and Lead in Lipstick
Early this week, EWG joined several groups and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to urge Sen. Mitch McConnell to postpone Pruitt’s confirmation vote. On Thursday, EWG President Ken Cook urged senators to stop and think about what was at stake. In a show of defiance, even EPA employees tried to block Pruitt’s confirmation. Then, yesterday evening, an Oklahoma state judge ordered Pruitt to turn over 3,000 emails between his office and the fossil fuel industry by Feb. 21.
As he prepares to take the helm at the EPA, the public has a right to know if Pruitt will work for them or if he will continue to work for the fossil fuel industry.
Speaking of the EPA, DuPont and its spinoff company Chemours settled their big Teflon case, agreeing to pay $671 million to settle about 3,500 lawsuits. While this legal settlement closes the most infamous case involving the chemical PFOA, its toxic legacy lingers worldwide, said EWG President Ken Cook.
On another note, Gwyneth Paltrow joined EWG to raise awareness about lead in lipstick. On Tuesday she tweeted, “Women have been exposed to toxic chemicals in cosmetics for far too long – it’s time to take action.”
Here’s some news you can use as you begin your weekend.
Scott Pruitt and the EPA
He distinguished himself in Oklahoma by battling many of the signature environmental protections implemented by Obama, arguing they were a federal intrusion on the states. He does not accept the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change, and has been described by the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group as the worst nominee selected to run the EPA in history. Reprinted by The Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant and Daily Press.
“As Scott Pruitt takes the reins at the EPA, we expect to see an unprecedented assault on public health protections,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “We will stand with our colleagues in the environmental movement, and the thousands of committed professionals at the EPA, to resist that assault and uphold the right of all Americans to clean air, safe water and a healthy environment.”
“There has never been a nominee for EPA administrator opposed so strongly by environmental and public health advocates, scientists, and hundreds of current and former EPA officials,” said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook, in a statement.
“It’s a safe assumption that Pruitt could be the most hostile EPA administrator toward clean air and safe drinking water in history,” Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, told the New York Times.
The Environmental Working Group released a statement yesterday adding its voice to the chorus of left-leaning advocates joining Democrats in pressing McConnell to punt for Pruitt. “Republicans spent the better part of the presidential campaign demanding to see the emails of the Democratic nominee. One would hope Sen. McConnell and his colleagues will show the same resolve today and put off the vote on Scott Pruitt until the court in Oklahoma can complete its hearing,” said EWG President Ken Cook. (subscription)
Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said, “The EPA’s job is to protect public health, not let industry off the hook for polluting our rivers and drinking water.” Scott Pruitt has used his position as Oklahoma’s top prosecutor to sue the EPA in favor of industries that pollute our air and water instead of protecting them.
PFOA Settlement and Nonstick Chemicals in Food Wrappers
The Environmental Working Group said the settlement closes the most infamous case involving PFOA, but the chemical’s “toxic legacy” lingers throughout the world. The EWG said it contaminates the tap water of approximately 7 million Americans and pollutes the blood of “virtually everyone”.
Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said though the West Virginia and Ohio cases were significant, the chemical continues to show up all over the country. “PFOA contaminates the tap water of 7 million Americans, pollutes the blood of virtually everyone and is found in the most remote parts of the planet," said Cook. "We celebrate the fact that justice has been served for tens of thousands of people in the mid-Ohio Valley, but we can't forget that PFOA and related nonstick compounds will continue to threaten our health for a long, long time.”
And although some PFASs—like the ones formerly used to make Teflon coating on pans—have been banned by the FDA, “companies have flooded the market with a new generation of [these chemicals] that have not been adequately tested for safety,” according to the Environmental Working Group. PFASs are also highly persistent, meaning they break down extremely slowly in nature.
“We just don’t know enough about the safety of these new chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group who coauthored the study with researchers from federal and state agencies, universities and other nonprofit organizations. “Since there are other options out there, this should be a wake-up call for these companies.”
Lead in Lipstick
Gwyneth Paltrow stepped up her fight against toxins in cosmetics — specifically regarding the presence of lead in lipstick — by partnering with the targeted safety campaign by the Environmental Working Group this week.
The Environmental Working Group is not letting up in its push for FDA to recognize that no amount of lead in cosmetics is safe for consumers. However, a less tolerant regulatory stance on trace lead levels could be a de facto ban on whole categories of products, as ByValenti Organics discovered in its elusive search for “lead-free” pigments. (subscription)
The message is accompanied by a link to an Environmental Working Group website with a petition addressed to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the official body of the United States regulating substances for human consumption and use. In just two days, the petition has surpassed the 21,000 signatures of support. Reprinted by 60 Spanish news outlets.
Click here to join Gwyneth Paltrow in this fight by adding your name to EWG’s petition today. Tell the FDA there is NO safe level of lead in lipstick, and that personal care products containing lead should have a clear and conspicuous warning.
Cosmetics and Skin Deep®
The Environmental Working Group evaluated over 72,000 products and ranked them in an easy-to-understand guide to make sure you have a resource to keep your family safe. Check out EWG’s “Skin Deep Cosmetic Database” today for recommendations for which products to use and avoid.
The Environmental Working Group lists the "health concern" for both SLS and SLES as low, though the jury is still out on precisely how harmful such ingredients can be. In the meantime, just don't eat it, and if you're concerned about shaving cream's effect on your health, consider making one of these DIY homemade versions from nontoxic ingredients you recognize.
Dr. Hake suggests we make note of the products we use every day and download the Environmental Working Group’s app, Skin Deep. On the app, you can scan your personal care products and see on a scale of 1-10 how harmful the product is for you.
The average US woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics a day, containing 168 different chemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group. While most men use fewer products, they’re still exposed to about 85 such chemicals daily, while teens, who use an average of 17 personal care products a day, are exposed to even more.
Unilever’s ‘Game-Changing’ Move on Fragrance
Fragrances can include known toxic chemicals like phthalates, which have been linked to hormone disrupters that cause birth defects in baby boys, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental research organization in Washington, D.C.
It is an unprecedented leap toward transparency for a major company and a landmark win for consumers’ right to know, said EWG President and Co-Founder Ken Cook. EWG is the leading independent source of information on the health and safety of personal care products through its Skin Deep® cosmetics database. “Unilever’s action is a game-changer for transparency in the personal care product market, and we expect other major companies to follow suit,” said Cook.
In an Interview given to Sustainable Brands by Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group, Unilever's extraordinary decision is certainly a game-changer in offering full transparency in the beauty product industry and will force the rest of the market to pursue the same path. “It won't happen overnight, but the bold decision will help consumers to give a thorough detail of fragrance ingredients, which is applied on the body of almost everyone, including the babies," he added.
Save your organic dollars for the “dirty dozen” -- produce the Environmental Working Group has found to be the most toxic when grown with pesticides (strawberries and apples top the 2016 list). Otherwise, buy “local seasonal food that isn’t transported halfway around the world,” Story of Stuff says.
For those who are worried about pesticide residues on produce, the Environmental Working Group annually boils down data from the federal government and publishes a list of the 12 produce items with the most pesticide residues and another list of the 15 produce items that have the least residues. The residues are within legal limits, but the EWG contends even very small amounts are problematic. Reprinted by Before It’s News.
When it comes to eating organic versus non-organic, there are some foods we need to prioritize eating organic as much as possible. These foods are referred to as the “dirty dozen.” They are the foods that have the highest levels of pesticide residue, which has been linked to a variety of health issues. The list is updated each year, if needed, by the Environmental Working Group.
As much as possible, buy organic spaghetti squash. Winter squash ranks 25th in the Environmental Working Group’s list of fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue.
Even if summer is far away, it's never too early to stock up on sunscreen that omits oxybenzone and instead use zinc as the sun blocking agent. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a great resource to help you find the perfect one.
If you’re wondering how not to burn in the sun, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 guide to safe sunscreens, and consider its advice: “Sunscreen should be your last resort.” Use clothing (long-sleeved shirts or special UV blocking clothes), shade, sunglasses, and careful timing to minimize exposure to sunshine.