EWG News and Analysis
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EWG’s News Roundup (8/25): Monsanto Takes Swipes at Science, EPA Chief Nuzzles Up to Big Ag
Last week, EWG was the target of a hit piece by Monsanto’s top GMO executive, who criticized us for informing consumers about pesticides used on food through our Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM. This week, EWG pushed back.
And just last weekend, The New York Times reported that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt promised farming industry executives “a new day” for agriculture before scuttling a scheduled plan to ban the nerve-altering pesticide chlorpyrifos. Pruitt’s cozy relationship with chemical industry interests has long been on EWG’s radar.
Another revelation from the Times’ article was that the EPA was deferring pesticide oversight matters to the Department of Agriculture, which rarely puts public health ahead of the interests of industrial agribusiness.
“Administrator Pruitt now freely admits he’s outsourced pesticide safety decisions to an agency that too often puts the concerns of farmers ahead of our public health,” Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs said of this news.
For additional coverage on these stories and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.
Scott Pruitt and the EPA
“What is clear from these documents is that Administrator Pruitt’s abrupt action to vacate the ban on chlorpyrifos was an ideological, not a health-based decision,” Benesh told Bloomberg BNA in an email.
Internal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents show that Administrator Scott Pruitt has effectively relinquished the EPA's oversight of pesticide safety to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), said Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) senior vice president of government affairs.
“What is clear from these documents is that Administrator Pruitt’s abrupt action to vacate the ban on chlorpyrifos was an ideological — not a health-based decision,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group. “In fact, the Pruitt E.P.A. has shown time and time again that it seems to only be willing to act quickly when it comes to dismantling health-protective rules like the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos at the behest of industry.”
“USDA and the agro-chemical industry should not be the groups that get to decide the fate of a highly toxic pesticide that can harm kids’ brains and put farmworkers and their families at risk,” Alex Formuzis, the vice president for communications at the Environmental Working Group, said in an emailed response to ThinkProgress.
Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM
The USDA’s reports aren’t exactly easy to read, though, so a non-profit called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiles the data into its “clean fifteen“: a list of conventionally grown produce items with the best track records when it comes to pesticide residues — and the ones EWG says you can probably skip buying organic.
We'd like to thank Rob Fraley, chief technology official at Monsanto, who's largely responsible for introducing genetically modified foods to the U.S. and Big Ag's surge in pesticide use that ensued. Reprinted from EWG.
Keep in mind that some produce is more heavily sprayed and should always be purchased organic. Shoppers can refer to the free online guide created and updated regularly by Environmental Working Group about pesticides in produce at www.ewg.org.
To do this, we compared the top 40 foods our users eat to the Environmental Working Group (EWG’s) Dirty Dozen list of produce that is grown with the highest concentration of pesticides as well as with information on the pesticides, fungicides, and natural and synthetic growth hormones (such as rBGH recombinant bovine growth hormone which increases milk output in cows) used in the production of meat, dairy and other foods to come up with LIVESTRONG’s list of the 21 Foods to Always Buy Organic.
Tap Water Database
Almost all of the drinking water systems across the U.S. contains carcinogens, such as hexavalent chromium and nitrates, according to a 2017 Environmental Working Group (EWG) report that analyzed the quality of U.S. drinking water in all 50 states. (You can check out the EWG's Tap Water Database to see which contaminates were found in your area and how to sift them out — filtered water FTW.) Reprinted by Delish, MSN and True Viral News.
According to the report, which was recently released by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), Richmond and Chesterfield County each had six contaminants detected above health guidelines, while Henrico County had nine.
Cosmetics Marked to Women of Color
In regards to the Environmental Working Group’s study, the researchers found that 1 in 12 products marketed to black women were considered highly hazardous. Only 25% of the products for black women were considered “low hazard,” in comparison to approximately 40% of the products aimed at the general population. Keep in mind that even low hazard products don’t mean risk-free; they’re still hazardous to the body.
You can also keep yourself informed on a daily basis using websites like the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep, which lists known chemicals in beauty products. You can search through brands or look up specific products that have been researched. While Zota doesn't endorse EWG certification as a sole means of preventing exposure to toxins, it's one more way to vet potential dangers.
The research confirms Environmental Working Group’s findings in 2016 that beauty products marketed to black women are disproportionately unsafe.
“If a black woman is choosing products marketed to their demographic, they have fewer healthier options,” Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at the Environmental Working Group noted. Reprinted by True Viral News.
Even more alarming is that a 2016 study by the Environmental Working Group found $9.5 million in subsidies were awarded to members of Congress and their families.
According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that tracks farm subsidies, landowners in Wheeler County have been paid $25.4 million from 1995 to 2014 through the CRP. In the same time period, a miniscule amount in fines has been levied on landowners who have violated contracts: about $172,000 for unapproved haying and grazing and about $7,000 for contract noncompliance, which could include failure to manage brush.
Personal Care Products
But the Environmental Working Group isn't so sure. The watchdog agency says it has a "moderate" overall hazard and could potentially be associated with "organ system toxicity," which, TBH, I do not understand, but it obviously doesn't sound good.
According to the U.S.–based Environmental Working Group, one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients found in cosmetic, skin-care, and body-care products contains toxins that pose a threat to human health and the environment. So it’s no wonder that, as this knowledge becomes increasingly commonplace, more and more people are making the transition to naturally derived and plant-based personal-care regimens.
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group also researches environmental health issues, like pesticides, GMOs, and chemicals in consumer goods. As part of its work, EWG powers the Skin Deep database, cataloging more than 60,000 cosmetic products, giving each a ranking from one to 10. Ratings of one and two indicate a low hazard. Reprinted by MSN.
Formaldehyde in Personal Care Products
“Formaldehyde is a poster child for the lack of legislative authority the FDA possesses to regulate cosmetics,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs of the Environmental Working Group, the group that filed the petition and now has sued the FDA over its handling of formaldehyde in hair straighteners. “The good news is that Congress is closer than ever to legislation that would give the FDA a mandate to review such products.”
Guide to Health Cleaning
Products that are keeping your house clean can also contain carcinogenic substances. The Environmental Working Group has a Cleaners Hall of Shame list with the worst offenders. In the Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, they found nearly three-quarters of the 2,500 cleaning products listed contain ingredients that can harm respiratory health, and over one-quarter contain carcinogenic ingredients. If you want to know exactly what ingredients are added, it may be tough for you to find out — half of all products scored low in regards to ingredient disclosure.
Note: Most of these products have been graded A or B by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Reprinted by True Viral News.
Healthy Food Access for All Americans
The list of organizations supporting the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act includes: Bread for the World, Environmental Working Group, Feeding America, Food Marketing Institute, Food Policy Action, Food Research and Action Center, the Food Trust, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, National Grocers Association, U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Reinvestment Fund, and Share Our Strength.
Consumer Guide to Seafood
The Environmental Working Group provides a handy calculator here to determine how much of each kind of fish is safe to consume based on your age, including tuna.
Guide to Sunscreens
In a report on sunscreen delivered by US researchers at the Environmental Working Group, it was noted a form of vitamin A added to sun protection creams to help prevent ageing could actually speed up the development of some cancers.
Unfortunately, you can’t avoid all toxins, but you can reduce your exposure. Visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to learn more, and ask your functional medicine doctor to test whether toxins could be suppressing your immune function.