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EWG News Roundup (4/28): Top Chefs Come to Washington, EPA to Gut Clean Water Rules and Regulatory Accountability Act Introduced in Senate

Friday, April 28, 2017

This week, more than 30 top U.S. chefs stormed Capitol Hill to promote common-sense food policy, nutrition programs, clean drinking water and other environmental protections.

“For too many Americans, access to affordable, healthy and safe food is out of reach,” said top chef and food advocate Tom Colicchio. 

The Plate of the Union campaign will continue to urge policymakers to make healthy, accessible food a priority to benefit consumers and the environment. Watch Colicchio, José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern on MSNBC. And check out the photos of the congressional meetings here

And mark your calendars: On May 2, the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water will host a “public listening session” by telephone and web conferencing “to obtain additional feedback on water regulatory actions.” In other words, the Trump administration is looking for ideas on how to allow polluters to dump more toxic chemicals in your drinking water. If you want to comment, you must pre-register for a randomly selected spot on one of 150 phone lines. You can also submit written comments to the EPA until May 15.

In other news, in a win for the powerful pork lobby, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation to protect industrial hog and poultry operations from nuisance lawsuits filed by North Carolinians who live near concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. If signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, this could fundamentally alter the legal rights of nearly 1 million residents, whose property values are threatened by the pollution and stench of animal waste from factory farms.

Back on Capitol Hill, EWG discovered that the 2016 campaign of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, took in $3.3 million from corporate political action committees, trade groups and lobbyists who wanted to eviscerate rules and regulations that protect consumers. Their investment just paid off: This week, he introduced the Senate version of H.R. 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act – also known as the “Filthy Food Act” – which would make it virtually impossible for federal agencies to enact safeguards to protect food safety, public health and the environment.

Saturday will mark President Trump’s 100th day in office. In advance of the milestone, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate agriculture committee, released a scathing report documenting how his policies make life much harder for the people in rural America.

“Many of the rural counties that voted for Trump are more likely to have reported drinking water violations,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs. “But since the election, Trump has proposed to gut programs that finance rural drinking water systems and has withdrawn a rule that protects the drinking water of more than one-third of Americans.”

In light of these events, here’s some news you can use as you begin your weekend.

CAFOs in North Carolina

Associated Press: NC lawmakers OK limiting nuisance lawsuits against hog farms

The Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance estimate that about 60,000 North Carolina homes are within a half-mile of livestock operations, the range within which families are mostly likely to pursue lawsuits to stop an alleged nuisance.

Fusion: North Carolina Bill Downplays Impact of Toxic Hog Farm Runoff on Low-Income Communities

Statewide, there are more than 60,000 homes within a half mile of manure pits where farmers consolidate waste runoff, and almost one million residents live within “a three-mile nuisance zone” of industrial hog farms, according to an analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Traditionally, North Carolina residents could sue hog farmers under nuisance suits, claiming compensation for the decline in quality of life, such as not being able to spend time in their homes or in their yards because of the pervasive stench. This type of legal action served to both compensate the affected parties and dissuade hog farmers from egregiously dumping waste in the region.

Politico – Morning Agriculture: Waiting For Other Hoof to Drop in N.C. CAFO Battle

The bill is a companion to H.B. 467, which passed the state’s House of Representatives more than a week ago by a 68-47 vote and received considerable attention from the Environmental Working Group in an article on Monday. EWG and the Waterkeeper Alliance are both involved in battling the bills, which they argue would fundamentally alter private property rights.

Plate of the Union

USA Today: Top Chef star uses political clout to change food industry

After a short hiatus, the FPA-EF and the Environmental Working Group revived the Plate of the Union initiative to continue to fight for food reform. Reprinted by The Arizona Republic, Detroit Free Press and 107 more media outlets.

Politico: Out and About

The Food Policy Action Education Fund and the Environmental Working Group hosted more than 30 award-winning chefs at their Plate of the Union Farm Bill Summit on Wednesday at Republic Restoratives Distillery in Northeast D.C. Top chefs and food policy leaders met to talk about the farm bill.

Regulatory Accountability Act

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Sen. Rob Portman's push to peel back regulations meets fierce criticism

And the Environmental Working Group looked at all of Portman's campaign contributions and concluded that "corporate political action committees, trade associations and individuals lobbying to gut basic consumer protections" ponied up nearly half of the money Portman's campaign raised for his 2016 reelection.

Food Quality and Safety: Divisive Act May Impact Food Safety

“One of the likely victims of these new regulatory roadblocks would be new food safety rules,” writes Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

Maine Biz: U.S. Senate takes on bill that could change how fed agencies regulate

“One of the likely victims of these new regulatory roadblocks would be new food safety rules,” wrote Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency

NPR: In Trump's First 100 Days, A Resistance Network Digs In

American Oversight: What They’re Doing: Files FOIA requests at federal agencies so it can monitor their activities. The Audit The Wall project intends to examine plans, contracts and construction of the Southern border wall. With the Environmental Working Group, examining FOIA'd records on EPA administrator's decision to reverse a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos. Reprinted 82 times.

Common Dreams: Trump’s EPA Solicits Ideas on How Polluters Can Attack Water Protections

An Environmental Protection Agency email and website post announced that under an executive order from President Trump, the EPA is seeking “input on existing regulations that could be repealed, replaced or modified to make them less burdensome.” Trump and EPA chief Scott Pruitt have already taken radical steps to roll back environmental protections, but EWG President Ken Cook said this initiative opens the door for extreme proposals that will benefit water polluters and endanger public health. Reprint of EWG news release.

Environmental Leader: Manufacturers Come Down Hard on EPA and Labor Department

“President Trump (EPA Administrator Pruitt) are the only two people on Earth standing in the way of the U.S. taking the bold actions necessary to stave off the devastation climate change is already causing worldwide,” Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, said.

Times Free Press: Cleaveland: The risks of gutting the EPA

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Environmental Working Group ( is an excellent source of information on EDCs and other toxins.


New York Magazine: Congress Wants to Ban This Potentially Cancerous Chemical That’s in 46 Percent of Personal-Care Products

In 2008, the Environmental Working Group — a human-health and environment-protection nonprofit — found that 46 percent of personal-care items contained the potentially cancerous compound.

The Rose Sheet: Senators Ask For FDA Action On 1,4-Dioxane; EWG Surveying Industry

Eliminating any trace of 1,4-dioxane from personal-care products may be an impossibility, but a pair of US senators believe companies should be required to use manufacturing techniques that can minimize the contaminant’s presence. The Environmental Working Group is following up on their citizen petition to FDA by surveying companies whose products may contain the suspected carcinogen in trace amounts. (subscription) Reprinted by DermWire and three other industry trade publications.

Care2: Almost Half of Personal Care Products Contain This Carcinogen

The Environmental Working Group gives it a score of 8 out of 10, meaning it is a high hazard. And it’s pretty tough to get rid of once it enters our environment. It does not stick to soil particles, which means it seeps easily into our groundwater. Once in water, 1,4-dioxane remains intact and does not break down.

Natural News: Senators ask FDA to ban cancer-causing chemical from bath products

According to the Environmental Working Group, at least 8,000 products contain 1,4-dioxane. In spite of this, companies are not required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to list it as an ingredient. This is because 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant that is created through ethoxylation, in which ethylene oxide—a breast carcinogen—is combined with other chemicals to make them less harsh.


California Healthline: California Proposes Stringent Cap On Toxic Chemical In Drinking Water

Citing federal data, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, says the chemical also has been detected in water supplies of a dozen other states, including New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as Puerto Rico. The group, or EWG, said the extent of contamination is likely underestimated because federal tests used a contamination threshold much higher than California’s. (The federal government does not set restrictions on TCP in drinking water.)

Hearst TV: Potent carcinogen contaminated drinking water used by millions, says report

“The chemical agriculture industry keeps telling us that the amounts of pesticides in our food and water are too small to harm us,” Bill Walker, EWG managing editor and report co-author, told us Thursday. “Yet study after study comes out showing that exposure to even very small doses of pesticides can cause harm - especially during critical periods of brain development for fetuses and newborn babies.” Reprinted 25 times.

Water Online: For Years Californians Have Been Drinking Water Contaminated By Carcinogen

The Environmental Working Group released a report earlier this month, “that found 94 water systems serving eight million Californians are contaminated with 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP).”


WHQR – Coastline: What's in the Water?

An American Rivers Report recently identified the Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers as in the top ten Most Endangered in the United States.  A 2016 study of the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water by the Environmental Working Group found levels higher than it considers safe in the tap water of more than 200 million Americans.

Natural News: 63% of Americans are FINALLY concerned with the quality of their drinking water

Meanwhile, a recent review by the Environmental Working Group found that three-fourths of our nation’s drinking water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, putting more than 200 million Americans at risk. Reprint by True Viral News.

Truth-Out: “Superman Is Not Coming”: Erin Brockovich on the Future of Water

According to an Environmental Working Group's analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests, Chromium 6 alone, which remains unregulated to this day, contaminates the water supplies of more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. That's roughly two-thirds of the population.


Treehugger: 10 eco-friendly all-purpose cleaners for a toxic-free home

The following all-purpose cleaners all scored grades of A in Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning; a well-researched and respected guide with safety ratings to over 2,500 products. While there are plenty more listed in the guide, the ones here are tried-and-true and widely available. Happy healthy cleaning!

Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

Newsweek: Black Is Beautiful: Shea Moisture Ad Reveals How African-American Women Are Often Maligned by Beauty Industry

But the company has recently come under fire for changing the formula used to create its products, particularly it’s Nourishing skin care line, which ranked among the worst-scoring products in Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep review in December. The report, which analyzed the ingredients used in 1,177 beauty and personal care products marketed to black women, found one in every 12 products marketed toward women of color had highly hazardous levels of chemicals that put women in risk of cancer, developmental and reproductive damage, hormone disruption, allergies and other adverse health effects. Reprinted by Yahoo! UK.

San Diego Magazine: SeaMakers & Co. Brings the Eastern Seaboard to La Jolla

When it comes to beauty products, they looked high and low for the cleanest and most natural on the market. Each has a rating of one or lower on the Environmental Working Group’s hazard score, with zero animal testing.

The Culture Trip: 4 Steps to Clean, Natural Beauty

The Environmental Working Group is starting to stamp approved products with its logo to avoid ambiguity, but It will take a while to roll out. In the meantime you can always download the app—scan barcodes and get an instant clean score on your favorite skincare and cosmetics.


Bustle: 30 Natural & Organic Beauty Brands To Shop In Honor Of Earth Day

White & Elm uses minimal and organic ingredients, and also participates in the Environmental Working Group's EWG Verified program which has strict standards for green beauty. So you know what's in your skin care.

Feeding the World

Salon: Avoid conventional wisdom: Healthy soil is the real key to feeding the world

While conventional industrialized agriculture feeds the developed world, most of the world’s farmers work small family farms. A 2016 Environmental Working Group report found that almost 90 percent of U.S. agricultural exports went to developed countries with few hungry people.

Meat Eater’s Guide

Outside Magazine: How to Pick Your Jerky

To help you find the best fit for you, we’ve evaluated supermarket jerkies based on health profile and environmental impact, as assessed by the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide. Let’s get snacking.


The Advocate: Burning issue: House votes to remove sunscreen from 'medication' list for Louisiana schools

The Environmental Working Group just released its annual sunscreen guide, finding that nearly three-quarters of the products tested offered inadequate protection or contained ingredients that may harm the skin.

Delicious Living: Not all mineral sunscreens are created equal

Sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are becoming the industry standard for safety and efficacy. But there’s one major mineral misstep: using plant-based ingredients that are not FDA approved to get higher SPF values. Yeah, that’s bad. And it’s happening more and more often, according to the Environmental Working Group, an organization that provides research and education about the environment. Reprinted by the New Hope Network.

El Paso, Inc.: Soak up the sun safely: sunscreen tips

The Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding products with oxybenzone, a chemical that may disrupt hormones. Though research has found this effect, many scientists say the effect is so weak as to be insignificant. The advocacy group, however, recommends products that use zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients. (These products may leave a milky white film on the skin.)

Maui Time: What is reef-safe sunscreen and how to find it

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, “Oxybenzone is a common UV filter in sunscreen. It is a hormone disruptor and allergen. Sampling by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has detected it in the urine of 97 percent of Americans. Despite emerging concerns, the sunscreen industry continues to rely heavily on oxybenzone as an active ingredient: it was in 70 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens we evaluated for this year’s guide.”

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