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EWG News Roundup (6/22): City Slickers Collect Farm Subsidies, PFAS Study Finally Released and More

In the News
Friday, June 22, 2018

This week, EWG published records showing hundreds of people who live in America’s 50 largest cities have been collecting taxpayer-funded farm subsidies or disaster payments for 32 straight years. The payments total $52 million in all. From high-rise condos in Washington, D.C., to multimillion-dollar beach front properties on the Florida and southern California coasts, big city farm subsidy recipients span the nation.

After weeks of pressure from EWG and other public interest groups, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, finally released its report on risks associated with exposure to toxic fluorinated, or PFAS, chemicals. The report says a safe level of exposure to PFAS chemicals is seven to 10 times lower that what the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended. The outrage over the delayed study began when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed EPA officials, among others, suppressed the study out of fear it would create a “public relations nightmare” for the Trump administration.

“This study confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor at EWG. “We urge EPA to collect and publish all water results showing PFAS contamination at any level, so Americans across the country can take immediate steps to protect themselves and their families.”

Yesterday, the House narrowly passed its partisan farm bill, which would allow even more people who don’t need or deserve farm subsidies to collect them.

“The farm bill passed today by the House will create new loopholes that allow millionaires and billionaires to receive farm subsidies – regardless of whether they live or work on a farm,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “Now it will be up to the Senate to pass a farm bill that ensures real farmers, not city slickers or wealthy beach bums, are given taxpayer support to weather the ups and downs of agriculture.”

Prior to the vote, EWG laid out how the Senate and House farm bills are light-years apart from each other in almost every category – from conservation programs to protecting SNAP.

And today marks the two-year anniversary of the updated Toxic Substances Control Act being passed. But what should have brought overhaul of a badly broken, decades-old chemicals safety law has instead fallen flat under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s regime.

We also took some time this week to tout vital bills proposed in California’s legislature. The bills would help reduce childhood exposures to lead in drinking water and PFAS chemicals in food packaging.

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


ATSDR Study on PFAS Chemicals

ABC News: Threshold for harmful chemicals in drinking water lower than thought: Study

“This study confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” Olga Naidenko, senior science advisor at the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “We urge EPA to collect and publish all water results showing PFAS contamination at any level, so Americans across the country can take immediate steps to protect themselves and their families.”

The Associated Press: Report finds industrial chemicals more toxic than thought

“The more we test, the more we find,” Olga Naidenko, a science adviser to the Environmental Working Group nonprofit, said Wednesday.

Reuters: EPA-recommended chemicals levels in water too high: U.S. report

“This study confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” said Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser at the Environmental Working Group, an environmental watchdog group.

The Hill: Federal agency releases ‘public relations nightmare’ water contaminant study

“This study confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser at the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement.

Mic: Trump administration sits on study showing disturbing contamination levels on US military bases

A recent report by the nonprofit environmental watchdog Environmental Working Group shows that up to 110 million Americans could be drinking PFAS-contaminated water. Work by independent scientists show that safe levels of PFAS to be exposed to are far, far lower than the reporting level currently set by the EPA.

Michigan Radio: PFAS report that EPA hid for months recommends stricter advisory level

Olga Naidenko, the Senior Science Advisor with the Environmental Working Group who focuses on public health, says according to the report, the federal drinking water standard for PFAS isn’t strict enough.

Michigan Radio: New CDC report finds federal PFAS health standard too lax

Alexis Temkin is a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. She spoke with Stateside on the implications of this new development.

NJ Spotlight: Feds Release Long-Awaited Report on Health Risks of Chemical Family

Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research group that advocates for tighter national limits on the chemicals, said the ATSDR report shows the EPA’s guidelines “woefully underestimate” risks to human health. “This is certainly a move in the right direction, based on the scientific evidence,” said Olga Naidenko, a senior science advisor for EWG. “ATSDR is now ahead of EPA by seven- to ten-fold.”

Parkersburg News and Sentinel: Feds release study about chemicals in water supply

EPA would allow seven to 10 times more in people’s diets than the ATSDR” proposal, said Olga Naidenko, the Environmental Working Group’s senior science adviser, referring to other chemicals included in the report. Asked the difference between the numbers, Naidenko said the ones in Wednesday’s report “are based on the more recent science.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: Toxins found in water near Bucks, Montco military bases more harmful than previously reported

The new report concluded the risk level of the chemicals — known as per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, and used on the local bases mainly in firefighting foam — is “roughly seven- to tenfold” higher than what the EPA used in its study, said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist with the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stricter drinking water standards.

The Seattle Times: Federal study lays out risk levels for firefighting-foam chemicals in drinking water

For one of these chemicals, the minimal risk level is seven times lower than the current EPA guideline of 70 parts per trillion. For a second one, the level is 10 times lower, according to a review of the study by the Environmental Working Group.

StateImpact Pennsylvania (NPR): Toxic chemical study EPA is accused of blocking just came out. It calls for stricter drinking-water limits

Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research group that advocates for tighter national limits on the chemicals, said the ATSDR report shows the EPA’s guidelines “woefully underestimate” risks to human health. But it welcomed the report as a move toward greater protection of the public.

The New Republic: The Military Drinking-Water Crisis the White House Tried to Hide

These chemical compounds pose health risks to millions of Americans. They’re in roughly 1 percent of the nation’s public water supply, according to the EPA; in roughly 1,500 drinking water systems across the country, according to the Environmental Working Group. People who drink from these systems, even if their exposure to PFAS is low, now have a potentially increased risk of cancer; of disruptions in hormones and the immune system; and of complications with fetal development during pregnancy.

Vermont Public Radio: Federal Study On Health Effects Of PFAS, Delayed By EPA, Released

Alexis Temkin of the Environmental Working Group says the study represents the most comprehensive report to date on the human health effects of chemicals like PFOA And she says individuals and public drinking water utilities need to look closer at PFAS contamination now that it's clear there’s an effect on human health.

West Virginia Public Radio: Previously Blocked Federal Study Raises Alarm About C8 Chemicals

Olga Naidenko, senior science advisor with the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, said the analysis especially highlights how these chemicals are toxic to developing fetuses, pregnant women and young children. Reprinted by Ohio Valley Resource and WOUB.

Colorado Springs Gazette: Chemicals in Widefield aquifer more toxic than EPA advisory, draft report says

“It definitely says that the current health advisory is too high to adequately protect human health,” said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist for the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group. Reprinted by Colorado Politics.

The Huntington Beach Herald-Dispatch: Editorial – EPA should focus on health, not PR problems

Today, the federal toxic substances agency involved in the study is working on dozens of sites contaminated with those chemicals, and the nonprofit Environmental Working Group estimated in another new study that more than 1,500 water systems serving as many as 110 million customers across the country may be contaminated.

Kaiser Health News: Risk Level For Harmful Chemicals In Drinking Water Needs To Be 7-to-10 Times Lower Than EPA Recommended, Study Finds

“This study confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” said Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser at the Environmental Working Group. Other news on the safety of drinking water comes from New York and Cleveland.

PEW Stateline: Nonstick Chemicals Can Really Stick Around – in Your Body

The Environmental Working Group thinks the number of people affected could be closer to 110 million. The advocacy group has a map of sites it says are contaminated.

CBS3: WCAX (Burlington, VT): Are the EPA's PFOA guidelines too soft?

Now scientists with the Environmental Working Group say a new federal report released Wednesday suggests current EPA standards may be 10 times too low.

Gray TV: Toxic water contaminant could be slipping through regulatory cracks

Prolonged exposure carries the risk of cancer and other health problems. And now, scientists with the Environmental Working Group said a new federal report released Wednesday suggests safe levels may be 10 times lower than current Environmental Protection Agency standards.

House Farm Bill and Farm Subsidy Report

USA Today: House narrowly passes farm bill that contains controversial work requirement for food stamp recipients

Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group criticized the bill, saying it would “create new loopholes that allow millionaires and billionaires to receive farm subsidies – regardless of whether they live or work on a farm.” Reprinted by AZ Central.

Politico – Morning Agriculture: Vote on farm bill too close to call

That doesn’t look like a farm: Following the Senate’s Agriculture Committee’s decision not to require subsidy recipients to live and work on farms, the Environmental Working Group published a study showing that 245 people who received taxpayer-funded farm subsidies or disaster payments live in urban areas. And in some cases, their homes — such as a $7.8 million beachside mansion — more closely resemble resorts than farms.

CQ Roll Call: Fight Over Food Stamps Among Big Hurdles Facing Farm Bill

They could even cite the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that is critical of the House farm bill and is known for its pioneering databases of subsidy payments.

EPA and Chlorpyrifos

The Nation: Hawaii Just Made a Brilliant End Run Around Scott Pruitt’s EPA

“We are deeply alarmed that the EPA’s decision to allow the continued use of chlorpyrifos contradicts the agency’s own science and puts developing fetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women at risk,” the AAP wrote to Pruitt in a joint letter with the Environmental Working Group.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Washington Examiner: Is Trump Growing More Conflicted About Scott Pruitt?

“The only ‘corrective action’ worthy of Pruitt’s flagrant breaking of ethics laws and abuse of his office is for the president to fire him,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environment Working Group. “Anything short of that is tantamount to issuing a fine to a bank robber.”

Agriculture and Food

Sierra Magazine: The Environmental Impact of Food Has Huge Variability

The fact that so many farms are using environmentally harmful methods is dismaying, but Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group, sees things differently. “Actually, this is a good news story,” he says. “What it tells us is we can change our huge environmental footprint by changing the practices farmers use. This is more confirmation that the way we farm and practice production have profoundly different effects.” Reprinted by EcoWatch and Environment Guru.

Agricultural Runoff

United Press International: Midwestern farmers working to reverse Gulf dead zone

Science backs this up. Most fertilizer runoff occurs during the fall, after the corn is harvested, and spring, before it is planted. During these periods the fields are bare, and rain washes away large quantities of the heavily fertilized soil, said Craig Cox, a biologist with the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and education.

Algae Blooms

Environment Guru: Oregon Capital Battles Algal Toxins in Drinking Water

Already there seems to be an increase in blooms in the United States — or, at least an increased awareness. In analyzing news stories, the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, found 169 blooms reported last year, up from 51 in 2016 and 15 in 2015.

California Lead Testing Bill

Sacramento Bee: OPED – Why is California not doing more to stop lead poisoning?

Bill Allayaud is California director of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group and can be contacted at [email protected].


Daily Vanity: Organic hair colours are the beauty secret that some hairdressers don’t want you to know about

According to the Environmental Working Group, resorcinol is “a skin irritant that is toxic to the immune system and a frequent cause of hair dye allergy.” In fact, “resorcinol can disrupt thyroid hormone synthesis” as well. This means that in the long term, this could lead to excessive growth of thyroid tissue, leading to hyperthyroidism and goiter, a swelling in the neck.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Mother Earth Living: Nontoxic, Cruelty-Free Makeup

One of our most trusted resources at Mother Earth Living is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and it has analyzed the ingredients on cosmetic labels and brand websites against the best available information from dozens of toxicity and regulatory resources. Through this research, it has created its Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Here, it rates personal care products based on known and suspected hazardous ingredients, as well as the amount of data available about these ingredients.

Conscious Life News: 7 Ways to Balance Hormones Naturally

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.

Cosmetics Design Asia: Cosmeceuticals on the rise in China: What Should Brands Do?

The Environmental Working Group sets strict standards regarding ingredients and uses data to support the effects and long lasting capabilities of products. This is something consumers in China and Asia care deeply about and so is familiar to brands.


Consumer Affairs: Claim that Roundup caused man's cancer goes to trial in California

Environmentalists have put Roundup under the microscope since the WHO finding in 2015. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) argued the state of California should have set much lower exposure limits than those that were finally adopted.

Healthy Living: Home Guide

Orange Twist: 5 Ways To Spring Clean Your Home Of Indoor Pollution

Maybe it’s even more insidious, because often it’s invisible. We chatted with Environmental Working Group (EWG) Database & Research Analyst Samara Geller, who comes clean with helpful solutions. The EWG Healthy Living Home Guide reports the air inside of our homes can be two to five times more dangerous than the air outside—yikes!

PFAS in Food Wrappers

EcoWatch: These Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging Are Getting Into Your Meals

And when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and colleagues tested fast food wrappers, we found fluorinated chemicals in 40 percent of the wrappers tested. This included packaging for sandwiches, pizza, fried chicken and pastries.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM

Eat This, Not That: 15 Superfoods That Can Make You Fat

In fact, strawberries topped the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2018 Dirty Dozen, a list of the produce with the highest pesticide loads. Your best move is to buy organic fruits and veggies whenever possible. Even though organic fruits and veggies have been found to carry pesticide residues (due to inadvertent spray drift in the air or cross-contamination in harvesting bins), they’re still the better option—especially when it comes to strawberries.

Greatist: Is Organic Wine Really Better for You (and Your Hangovers)?

Especially considering that grapes are number five on the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Dirty Dozen list, with the latest findings stating that a whopping 96 percent of conventional grapes test positive for pesticide residues.

Honolulu Star Advertiser: Avoid toxic pesticides with smart produce choices

The Environmental Working Group makes it clear there are measurably risky pesticide residue levels in our food supply, despite the fact that since 1993 (and before) the government has known how toxic they can be.


Fashionista: The Sunscreen Whitney's Wearing Every Day This Summer

After writing about the Environmental Working Group's sunscreen report last month, I realized that — much to my chagrin — all of the sunscreens I had at home contained at least one of the harmful chemicals that the EWG advises against for the health of both people and the environment.

Mom.me: Does It Really Matter What Kind of Sunscreen We Use on Our Kids?

Thankfully, the consumer guide Environmental Working Group (EWG) narrowed down the search for parents, listing the 23 best-scoring sunscreens for kids on its website.

The Daily (Seattle, Wash.): Sunscreen for a safe summer

Out of those options, spray-on sunscreen might seem the most appealing. You get to spray it on and avoid the gooey, messy, and sticky tubes of slather-on sunscreen. The downside, according to the Environmental Working Group, is that they “cloud the air with tiny particles that may not be safe to breathe.” Though spray-on sunscreens may be more convenient, it’s better to play it safe and stick to creams and lotions.

Earth 911: Sunscreen Secrets: Shady Ingredients You Need to Avoid

However, I cross-referenced this with the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Sunscreens to determine — not just the SPF, or sunburn protection factor — but the hazard level that ranks products on a 0 to 10 scale in terms of both efficacy and toxicity, with 10 being the worst.

Napa Valley Register: These Are The Worst Sunscreens For Children In 2018, According To EWG

Each year, the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit, non-partisan consumer advocacy organization) reviews the top sunscreens for kids each year for safety. The EWG grades sunscreens based on their ingredients and efficacy.

Your Tango: The 4 Types Of Sunscreens You Must Use (Unless You Want Skin Cancer)

She recommends avoiding octinoxate and oxybenzone, "which are chemical blocks that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) considers to have higher toxicity concerns for hormone disruption." She also recommends that her patients choose mineral sunscreens, explaining, "physical sunscreens are made with minerals, either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and act as a shield that sits on top of the skin to reflect UV light."

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