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EWG’s News Roundup (8/18): EPA Chisels Away at Environmental Protection, Cosmetics Put Women of Color at Risk and Food Chemicals Linked to Obesity

Friday, August 18, 2017

It may be the dog days of summer, but this week was a busy one at EWG.

Kicking it off on Monday, we announced a lawsuit with environmental watchdog group Earthjustice, taking Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency to task for weakening key rules that regulate the toxic chemicals found in consumer products, building materials, and workplaces, as well as in our drinking water and food.

In keeping with the troubling developments out of the EPA, we unpacked the recent, explosive New York Times article on the shady ways in which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt goes about his everyday business

We also weighed in on the EPA’s recently announced scuttling of a plan that would cut toxic chemical discharges into drinking water sources.

“Frankly, I’m losing count of the number of actions by Administrator Pruitt that will put the lives of millions of American children at greater risk,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “But I can quickly add up what the cost is to polluters for dumping toxic chemicals into our water in the era of Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump: zero.”

There were also newly released studies that caught our attention this week – including one from the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology on the hazards of personal care products marketed to Black women, and one in Nature Communications on the links that hormone-disrupting food preservatives and nonstick chemicals have with obesity.

EWG has written extensively on these topics over the years, including in our 2017 report on nonstick chemicals found in fast food wrappers, our 2016 report on hazards of personal care products marketed to Black women and our 2014 Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.

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

Cosmetics Marked to Women of Color

Elle: Why Women of Color Are Being Exposed to Harmful Chemicals in Beauty Products

"Many of the hair relaxers and dyes are multi-step products that increase the chance of being exposed to hazardous chemicals," adds Paul Pestano, an Environmental Working Group analyst. "Some of the hair lotions and styling gels contain ingredients of concern like parabens, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and 'fragrance.'" Straighteners and relaxers are often laced with estrogen, which has been linked to premature reproductive development and uterine tumors. Reprinted by True Viral News.

Independent: Cosmetics marketed to women of colour contain higher levels of toxins, experts warn

The following groups attempt to provide lists of cosmetics without harmful ingredients: the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Skin Deep Database by the Environmental Working Group, and the Silent Spring Institute, which has a mobile phone app called Detox Me.

Vice: Women of Color Are Bearing the Brunt of a Toxic Beauty Industry

"The cosmetics law was introduced in 1938 and it hasn't been updated since then," Nneka Leiba, a director at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, pointed out to me. "Congress needs to give them more authority and more of that power."

Yahoo! Beauty: Women of color have higher levels of beauty product chemicals in their bodies

Nneka Leiba, director for healthy living science at the Environmental Working Group, which has researched the chemicals found in beauty products marketed to women of color, tells Yahoo Beauty that users have “fewer healthier options when it comes to products marketed specifically to their demographic.” EWG’s research found that only 25 percent of the 1,177 beauty products marketed to black women that they studied fell into the “low hazard” category — while 40 percent of products that are marketed to the general public fell into this group. The products with the worst scores included hair relaxers and bleaching products. Some lipsticks, concealers, and foundations also received poor scores.

Formaldehyde Lawsuit

Safety & Health: Groups file motion to prevent dismissal of lawsuit on formaldehyde in salon products
FDA issued warning letters to two manufacturers in March, but the environmental groups contend that it shows the agency has taken only the basic steps to determine whether to ban formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from keratin hair straighteners. The Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth filed their lawsuit Dec. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Plate of the Union Tap Takeover

Brightest Young Things: Sunday, August 20

With special guest bartender Chef Spike Mendelsohn. If you think healthy food and clean water are a right, join us to learn how to raise your voice for better food policy. Come enjoy music, food, a photo booth and beer in support of the Plate of the Union campaign! All tips from the beer sales will be matched by Atlas Brew Works, and a portion of food sales will benefit the Plate of the Union campaign!

DC Eater: Taco Kits Are a Thing Now, Plus More Intel

Tap takeover

Chef Spike Mendelsohn is on the move — this Sunday, instead of manning the decks at one of his DC restaurants — he’ll be behind the bar at Atlas Brew Works. The Plate of the Union Tap Takeover is an effort to raise awareness for all the most important aspects of food policy — healthy food, clean water. The fun starts at 1pm.

Earthjustice Lawsuit

EcoWatch: Groups Sue EPA for Weakening Toxic Chemical Rules

Earthjustice filed Friday's complaints in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of WE ACT for Environmental JusticeLearning Disabilities Association of AmericaUnited SteelworkersAlaska Community Action on Toxics, the Union of Concerned ScientistsEnvironmental Health Strategy Center, the Environmental Working Group and the Sierra Club.

San Francisco Chronicle: Trump’s EPA is caving to chemical industry, environmental groups say

“The EPA’s new rules fail to protect consumers by exempting key sources of exposure to risky chemicals,” said Melanie Benesh, a lawyer with the Environmental Working Group, one of the plaintiffs in the Ninth Circuit case. Others include the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Reprinted by San Francisco Gate.

Personal Care Products Safety Act

Good Housekeeping: Take Action: Help Us Make Cosmetics Safer

Join the Good Housekeeping Institute, the foremost consumer product-evaluation laboratory in the country, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, and in urging members of Congress to pass the Personal Care Products Safety Act. Add your name and help us get 50,000 signatures in support of safer cosmetics!

Nonstick Chemicals

NRP State Impact: PA environmental regulators to consider health limits for PFOA

“The continued state-level action and the recent announcement from Pennsylvania reflects the inability of EPA to set legal limits for emerging contaminants,” said Dr. David Andrews, senior scientist for EWG, in a statement.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM

Daily Mail: Crop spraying with the world’s most widely used pesticide is a greater danger than passive smoking to children living near the fields

The summer-favorite fruit contains at least 20 synthetic chemicals, a report by the Environmental Working Group found. Other chemically-ridden produce includes spinach, nectarines and apples, the research adds

EcoWatch: Dr. Hyman: 4 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

Eat organic when you can and follow the Environmental Working Group's list of the "Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen." This list helps identify the fruits and vegetables that are more or less likely to contain agricultural chemical residues.

Thrillist: 9 Ways To Eat Organic On A Budget

 The Environmental Working Group puts out a list of the so-called “Clean 15” -- fruits and veggies that you don’t need to buy organic. They also publish an annual “Dirty Dozen” list, i.e., the 12 produce items you should definitely buy organic if you want to avoid contact with pesticides and other gross stuff. Think foods where you eat the skin, like strawberries and apples, or items you eat right out of the ground, such as spinach.


Coveteur: Worried about toxic sunscreen?

“Sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as penetration enhancers and help the product adhere to the skin,” says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group in DC. “As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk, and urine samples.” 

MindBodyGreen: Your Guide To Never Having A Cold Sore Again: A Functional Medicine Expert Explains

Overdoing it in the sun can flare an attack for someone who has an underlying viral infection that's ready to be triggered. Find a nontoxic SPF lip balm though. The last thing your lips need is a chemical-laden toxic sunscreen. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an awesome resource to find the right SPF. Reprinted by True Viral News.

Tap Water Database

Bluewater: A New Database Detailing Pollutants In Virtually All U.S. Public Water Systems Is A Benchmark For Other Countries, Says Bluewater

Bluewater, an innovator of residential water purification technologies, has praised the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.–based non-profit, non-partisan organization, for creating a national Tap Water Database in the United States. Bluewater said the EWG project – which aggregates and analyzes data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia – sets a benchmark for similar initiatives enabling people in other parts of the world to discover what harmful chemicals may exist in their drinking water.  

Pal-Item: What's in our drinking water?

According to David Andrews, a senior scientist with EWG, the health guidelines cited by his organization are set at levels at which there's a one-in-a-million likelihood of a person getting cancer from a particular contaminant. "The legal limit doesn't necessarily match what's the safe exposure level," he said. "The concern increases the farther away you get from the health (guideline)."

Rapid City Journal: Most water clean in Hills but some systems have problems

Sonya Lunder, EWG senior research analyst who worked on the report, explained that the water tests behind the data and report typically occur at the treatment facility of each water system. Testing for lead, though, occurs in consumer homes.

Rodale’s Organic Life: This Genius Gadget Lets You Safely Drink From A River

People have long known that their tap water was contaminated—most just didn’t know to what extent. After the Environmental Working Group released a comprehensive database outlining the contaminants in drinking water across America just a couple weeks ago, everyone can now see what, exactly, plagues their own tap water.

Times Free Press: Beware the benzene in attached garages

Are you curious if your tap water is safe to drink? The Environmental Working Group has launched the EWG Tap Water Database, so now it's easy to find out if there are contaminants in your city's drinking water. Just type in your ZIP code, and you'll see a complete list of contaminants found in your water supply. The report also outlines if these levels are safe or too high, if a contaminant is at a legal level and what independent scientists think about it for public safety. Learn more at ewg.org/tapwater.


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