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EWG’s News Roundup (2/16): 1,000 Communities Have Serious Lead Issues, While Flint Still Reels From Crisis

In the News
Friday, February 16, 2018

On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt hosted a lead summit at the agency’s headquarters. This meeting comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s proposed 2019 budget that calls for slashing EPA programs for lead abatement. Last month, during Senate testimony, Pruitt declared the agency was waging a “war on lead,” which now seems to be window dressing for the administration’s inaction.

In anticipation of this summit, EWG crunched 2017 EPA lead testing data and found that more than 1,000 communities nationwide had water tainted above the lead action level. The majority of the communities affected by elevated lead levels are small and don’t have the resources to address the problem.

“This widespread exposure to lead in drinking water poses a clear and present danger to the health of America’s children,” said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York. “It will reduce children’s IQs, shorten their attention spans and disrupt their behavior, and it is ultimately a threat to America’s future. It is an exposure that needs urgently to be ended.”

Similarly, recent reports on lead by the Detroit Free Press and The New Republic caught our eyes. Both documented dramatic drops in third-grade literacy levels in Flint, Mich. – a community ravished by lead-contaminated drinking water beginning in 2015. This is a real-world example of how lead-tainted drinking water can affect a generation of residents.

Until regulators get a handle on this nationwide crisis, EWG recommends that parents take steps to reduce their children’s exposure to lead from all sources by using proper water filtration techniques, replacing old pipes and paying special attention to old lead paint.

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

Lead in Drinking Water

POLITICO - Morning Energy: Pruitt Wants to Lead on Lead

Despite the attention that lead poisoning has received in recent years after nearly 100,000 people were exposed to dangerous lead levels in their drinking water in the city of Flint, Mich., an analysis by the watchdog Environmental Working Group Wednesday found that the number of drinking water systems exceeding EPA’s lead action level remains essentially unchanged.

AlterNet: Nearly 2 Million Americans Exposed to Potentially Toxic Level of Lead in Tap Water

Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., is Senior Science Advisor for Children's Environmental Health at the Environmental Working Group. Sonya Lunder is a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group. Prior to joining EWG in 2002, Sonya managed a community health intervention at a Superfund site and worked on epidemiology studies at California's Environmental Health Investigations Branch.

Mountain View Voice: Elevated lead levels found in Theuerkauf water

The Environmental Working Group, a national advocacy and research organization, has taken a similar stance, urging the federal government to enact a protective legal limit for lead in drinking water similar to limits on other contaminants, according to Olga Naidenko, a senior science advisor with the group. The EPA can also take a more aggressive stance in compelling water companies to replace aging pipes, which are largely to blame for lead contamination in water systems. 

California Lead Testing Bill

Los Angeles Sentinel: Assemblymember Holden’s Introduces Legislation to Help Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

Almost three-fourths of California’s high-risk children — 1- and 2-year-olds enrolled in the state-run low-income health insurance program – had not been tested for lead in their blood, according to a recent Environmental Working Group analysis of California’s most recent lead testing data.

EPA and Scott Pruitt

The Garden Island: EPA, Syngenta settle

In a June 2017 letter to the EPA administrator, AAP along with the Environmental Working Group, stated, “We are deeply alarmed that the EPA’s decision to allow the continued use of chlorpyrifos contradicts the agency’s own science…. The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous.”


New Hampshire Union Leader: In NH, a battle over asbestos lawsuits and transparency

New Hampshire’s rate is 6.2, with more than 1,200 residents dying from asbestos-triggered diseases from 1999 to 2013, according to the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.

Asbestos in Cosmetics

Kaplan Herald: Harmful youngsters' make-up should carry warnings, new proposal requires

Geologically, talc and asbestos can be formed from the same parent rock, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.  As a result, mined talc deposits in many parts of the world can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, the group said.  


EcoWatch: 5 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic BPA

No one disputes that bisphenol A, a toxic compound widely used to line food cans and other food packaging, is polluting people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of more than 90 percent of Americans sampled. In 2009, tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) were the first to find BPA in the umbilical cords of nine of 10 infants sampled. Reprint of EWG article. Reprinted by Environment Guru.

Cellphone Radiation

The Survive and Thrice Boomer Guide: Animal study links cell-phone radiation to increased cancer risk

“This is the most authoritative study published that connects cancer with cellphone radiation – it should raise alarms for policymakers and awareness for all Americans,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at the Environmental Working Group. “These studies should have been done before more than 90 percent of Americans, including children, started using this technology day in and day out.”

Cleaning Products

Best Life: 20 Everyday Habits That Increase Your Cancer Risk

Doing your laundry seems harmless enough, right? Well, not so much. According to the Environmental Working Group, some brand-name liquid laundry detergent contains 1,4-dioxane, a chemical that could potentially be cancerous. In past research, animals exposed to the chemical had higher rates of liver tumors than those who didn’t, so it’s something to be wary of.

How to Clean Stuff: Natural Store Bought Glass Cleaners Put to the Test

Quite a few cleaners claimed that they are nontoxic, however there were several ingredients in the “nontoxic” cleaners that EWG (Environmental Working Group) shows evidence for being toxic. EWG is a non-profit organization that has compiled a database for ingredients using research studies and information from regulatory agencies like the EPA to rank each ingredient for its health or greenness.


Mercola: Dog Almost Dies From Human Hair Dye — What Does That Tell You?

Many men may be inadvertently exposing themselves to dangerous lead levels when they use hair dye with lead acetate, used in products designed to gradually reduce the appearance of gray hair.  Several consumer groups, including the Environmental Working Group, Earthjustice, Chicago School of Law, Breast Cancer Fund and the Environmental Defense Fund have filed a petition with the FDA requesting a ban on lead acetate.

Skin Deep®

Men’s Health: Why Your Deodorant Might Be Making You Flabby, Tired, and Impotent

That list includes roughly 4,000 organic and synthetic compounds — some of which, like styrene, have been linked to cancer. The non-profit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database also provides health and safety info on thousands of consumer chemicals. Reprinted by General Health and MSN.


Well.ca: EWG VERIFIED: Empowering You to Make Healthy Buying Choices

Luckily, there’s an organization that carries out ingredient analysis and informs us about what’s really in our products. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting us (and our family) from toxic chemicals in personal care products.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

The Cheat Sheet: These Are the Dirtiest Fruits and Vegetables You Can Buy at the Grocery Store, and How You Should Clean Them

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, when it comes to removing pesticides from produce, there are a handful of fruits and veggies to be cautious of. And while the EWG’s list is a good starting point, there are far more than 12 fruits and vegetables ridden with pesticide residue.

PopSugar: 15 Foods Experts Say You Don't Have to Buy Organic If You're on a Tight Budget

With widespread knowledge about the benefits of shopping organic as well as the dangers of pesticides, it's hard not to feel guilty when reaching for nonorganic groceries to save money. Luckily, the following produce items - deemed the Clean 15 by the Environmental Working Group - are perfectly safe and healthy to eat when grown nonorganically. Reprinted by MSN.

The Packer: USDA: Pesticide residue levels show no risk to consumers

The USDA report is one source of residue data interpreted by the Environmental Working Group to create its annual Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 ranking of fruits and vegetables. According to the USDA, the program “provides reliable data to help assure consumers that the food they feed themselves and their families is safe.” Reprinted by eight media outlets.

Sugary Cereals

Healthline: Pizza for Breakfast? Not So Fast

Indeed, a 2014 analysis from the Environmental Working Group concluded that most cereal options in the grocery store are filled with so much sugar they aren’t healthy enough to consume on a daily basis.

Tap Water Database

ABC13: WZZM (Plainfield Township, Mich.): Michigan, Plainfield Township hire PR firms to deal with water contamination

Plainfield Township municipal wells also detected three contaminants, 1,4-Dioxane, hexavalent chromium and PFOS, at unsafe levels in 2015, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group.

Business Insider: American drinking water could soon get a lot dirtier

If you're worried about whether your own drinking water is up to par, there's an annual  drinking-water report from the EPA you can check online as well as an independent tap-water database available from the Environmental Working Group. You can also use an NSF/ANSI-approved filter at home. Reprinted by the San Francisco ChronicleAlbany Times UnionSan Antonio Express-NewsSeattle Post-Intelligencer and 15 other media outlets. 

PBS5: WUFT (High Springs, Fla.): New Pipeline Could Help Fix Water Issues In High Springs

From October 2014 to September 2017, the High Springs Water Treatment Plant was in violation of health-based drinking water, according to the Environmental Working Group’s drinking water quality report. The EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that has an interactive tap water quality report that shows the results of tests conducted by the water utilities and makes them accessible and easy to read for the public.

Nitrates in Drinking Water

The New Republic: Rural America’s Drinking-Water Crisis

The tap water in Pretty Prairie, Kansas, for example, “has exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limit” for nitrate for more than 20 years, the Environmental Working Group reported in 2017. As a result, the town’s 672 residents have imbibed carcinogens for decades. The Environmental Working Group reports, “Studies by the National Cancer Institute have found that drinking water with just 5 [parts per million] of nitrate increases the risk of colon, kidney, ovarian and bladder cancers.” Reprinted by Mother Jones.

Nonstick Chemicals in Drinking Water

The Intercept: PFOA and PFOS Are Only the Best-Known Members of a Very Dangerous Class of Chemicals

“When all these thing were put into the marketplace, no one said, ‘There is one downside: It’s going to contaminate the entire living world, including any babies,’” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group.

Delaware Online: Sussex County town marks third site with known PFCs contamination in Delaware

As part of that study, the Environmental Working Group published an interactive map showing where PFCs have been detected in water supplies, including several sites in Delaware: New Castle, Newark, Dover and Wilmington. In Newark, the EPA found two samples with detectable PFOA concentrations that were below the federal health advisory level.

Radioactive Drinking Water

Town Square Media: 101.5 (N.J.): Does New Jersey Tap Water Have Too Much Radium?

 “A recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group finds there’s nearly 400 New Jersey water systems that are providing water for nearly 5 million people where there are elevated levels of radium 228 and 226, which are potential carcinogens,” said Doug O’Malley, the director of the advocacy group Environment New Jersey.

Water Filters

Bon Appetit: I'm In Love With My Ex-Boyfriend's Water Filter

I found a tap water database from an organization called The Environmental Working Group that showed NYC water to have more than double the amount of chloroform, for example, than national health guidelines recommend. Eek!

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