Quantcast

Chemical Industry Bigwig Headed to the U.S. EPA

By Melanie Benesh

The Trump administration just appointed a chemical industry bigwig to a high-level chemical safety position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo credit: iStock

Groups Demand Pruitt's Records on EPA Decision to Reject Chlorpyrifos Ban

American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) today launched a joint investigation into the March 29 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health

Shell, Dow Hid Cancer-Causing Chemical in Pesticides, Contaminating Drinking Water for Millions

For decades, Shell and Dow hid a highly potent cancer-causing chemical in two widely used pesticides, contaminating drinking water for millions of people in California and beyond, according to lawsuits detailed in a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Keep reading... Show less

Want to Avoid Feeding Your Kids Pesticides That Can Harm Their Brains? Read This

By Alex Formuzis and Sonya Lunder

Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt stuck to his long-standing practice of ignoring science, disregarding data that shows the pesticide chlorpyrifos could harm kids' brains.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

EPA Scraps Scheduled Ban of Widely Used Pesticide Known to Harm Kids’ Brains

In one of his first major decisions as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt sided with the pesticide lobby over scientists Wednesday in an eleventh-hour decision to abort the agency's proposal to ban chlorpyrifos—an insecticide that at small doses can harm children's brains and nervous systems—from use on food crops.

Keep reading... Show less

How to Meet the Soaring Demand for Organic Food

Despite the rapid growth of the organic food industry, U.S. production lags significantly behind consumer demand. A new report from the Environmental Working Group shows that with modest reforms to existing programs, Congress could help growers transition away from farming that relies on chemical pesticides and expand the acreage dedicated to organic agriculture.

Between 1997 and 2015, sales in the organic sector soared from $3.7 billion to more than $43 billion. This double-digit growth nearly every year makes the organic sector one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. Major retailers such as Costco report that they can't get enough organic food to meet customer demand.

Yet the gap between supply and demand means many American organic food companies have to rely on foreign suppliers for staples like soybeans, corn and rice—demand that could be met by domestic producers.

"Driven in large part by the multiple environmental and health benefits, Americans' appetites for organic food is seemingly insatiable," said Colin O'Neil, Environmental Working Group's agriculture policy director and author of the report. "The current organic trade deficit presents Congress with a unique chance to expand market opportunities for U.S. producers, while also benefitting consumers, food companies and the environment. With modest reforms to current programs in the next farm bill, Congress can reduce barriers to farmers who want to transition organic methods at no additional cost."

John Paneno, vice president of sourcing for Amy's Kitchen Inc. of Petaluma, California, said increasing the U.S. supply of organic food is essential.

"Amy's continues to see strong consumer growth for our organic products," said Paneno. "We need more programs that help our farmers transition into organic farming so that we can source the ingredients we need domestically and create new jobs for our rural communities."

The Environmental Working Group's report details how Congress can play a role in better positioning American farmers to meet the demand for organics, by increasing the number of organic farms and the amount of organic acreage. Congress has already begun discussing the 2018 Farm Bill, which O'Neil said should include the following modest changes:

  • Reform the Conservation Stewardship Program to create bundles of conservation practices specifically to help producers who want transition to organic.
  • Reform the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative to provide organic and transitioning producers with the same level of support as those in the general funding pool.
  • Reform the Conservation Reserve Program to provide greater incentives for producers to put farmland exiting the program into organic production.

"The organic food industry is now one of the fastest growing, most dynamic parts of the food sector, creating tens of thousands of jobs and producing in-demand foods for millions of Americans" said O'Neil. "Members of Congress should take any simple steps they can to reduce barriers to transition and help expand the organic farm footprint here in the U.S."

Sponsored
iStock

12 Fruits and Vegetables You'd Better Buy Organic

Strawberries remain at the top of the Dirty Dozen list of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce, with spinach jumping to second place in the annual ranking of conventionally grown produce with the most pesticide residues.

EWG's analysis of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that nearly 70 percent of samples of 48 types of conventional produce were contaminated with residues of one or more pesticides. USDA researchers found a total of 178 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on the thousands of produce samples they analyzed. The pesticide residues remained on fruits and vegetables even after they were washed and, in some cases, peeled.

"If you don't want to feed your family food contaminated with pesticides, the EWG Shopper's Guide helps you make smart choices, whether you're buying conventional or organic produce," said Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst. "Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they're grown, but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic. If you can't buy organic, the Shopper's Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides."

Lunder said it's particularly important to reduce young children's exposures to pesticides. The pesticide industry and chemical agriculture maintain that pesticides on produce are nothing to worry about, but doctors and scientists strongly disagree.

"Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to infants, babies and young children, so when possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children's exposures to pesticides while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables," said Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. "EWG's guide can help by giving consumers easy-to-use advice when shopping for their families."

Landrigan, dean of Global Health and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai, was the principal author of a landmark 1993 National Academy of Sciences study, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. The study led to enactment of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act that set safety standards for pesticides on foods.

For the Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. In addition to strawberries and spinach, this year's list includes nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.

Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce. Pears and potatoes were new additions to the Dirty Dozen, displacing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year's list.

Key findings:

  • Nearly all samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide.
  • The most contaminated sample of strawberries had 20 different pesticides.
  • Spinach samples had an average of twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop. Three-fourths of spinach samples had residues of a neurotoxic pesticide banned in Europe for use on food crops—it's part of a class of pesticides that recent studies link to behavioral disorders in young children.

By contrast, EWG's Clean Fifteen list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues includes sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods and tests found low total concentrations of pesticide residues on them.

"From the surge in sales of organic food year after year, it's clear that that consumers would rather eat fruits and vegetables grown without synthetic pesticides," said Lunder. "But sometimes an all-organic diet is not an option, so they can use the Shopper's Guide to choose a mix of conventional and organic produce."

Health

Interactive Map Shows if Your Drinking Water Is at Risk From Trump's Executive Order

By Craig Cox and Soren Rundquist

The Trump administration is threatening to remove safeguards that protect the drinking water of more than one-third of Americans.

Some 117 million people get at least some of their drinking water from small streams. For 72 million people in 1,033 counties, more than half of their drinking water comes from small streams. Ensuring that their water is safe means keeping the water in these streams clean.

More than 72 million Americans in 1,033 counties get more than half of their drinking water from small streams Environmental Working Group, from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Geographic Information Systems Analysis of the Surface Drinking Water Provided by Intermittent, Ephemeral and Headwater Streams in the U.S.

Right now, the Clean Water Act protects these streams from pollution. But this week President Trump issued an executive order directing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt to rescind or revise the Clean Water Rule or replace it with a new rule.

This critically important rule determines which streams, rivers and lakes are protected from pollution by the Clean Water Act. The rule also extends protection for millions of acres of wetlands that filter drinking water.

Industry and agribusiness have been pushing for years to roll back the Clean Water Rule and protect only the biggest streams and rivers. Now they've found a friend in the Trump administration.

Small streams are where big rivers start and the best science confirms that dirty streams means even dirtier rivers. Millions of Americans drink water directly connected to 234,000 miles of small, potentially unprotected streams.

In 21 different states, small streams provide drinking water for 1 million or more people. More than 5 million people in each New York, Texas and Pennsylvania get drinking water from small streams, as do more than 3 million in each California, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.

Environmental Working Group, from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Geographic Information Systems Analysis of the Surface Drinking Water Provided by Intermittent, Ephemeral and Headwater Streams in the U.S.

President Trump's executive order immediately threatens drinking water for millions of Americans, but it's not the only threat. Dozens of lawsuits seeking to gut the Clean Water Rule have been filed by industry and agribusiness and states catering to those interests. Congress could meddle with the Clean Water Act itself to deny protection to small streams and wetlands.

The Clean Water Rule is a common-sense safeguard supported by a majority of Americans. It is supported by many cities and towns that depend on unpolluted drinking water sources and natural infrastructure like wetlands to filter pollutants and absorb floodwaters. Small businesses that rely on clean water and healthy wildlife habitats, such as craft breweries and outdoor recreation companies, also strongly support the Clean Water Rule.

Undermining, weakening or rescinding this vital rule is a gift to corporate polluters and Big Ag and a threat to public health and the environment.

The Environmental Working Group analyzed data from a 2009 EPA study that examined "regional patterns of dependence on intermittent, ephemeral and headwater streams to supply public drinking water systems in the United States, using the most recent, valid data available."

The EPA mapped a Source Protection Area or SPA, for every public drinking water system. The agency defined an SPA as "the area upstream from a drinking water intake that provides water to a public drinking water system during a 24-hour period."

The EPA's approach likely underestimates the contribution small steams make to drinking water supplies. Small streams feed the large rivers that millions of people rely on for drinking water, but are too far upstream from the drinking water intake to be included in the EPA's analysis.

In the map below, the blue shaded area is a SPA. Water from streams in the SPA will reach the intake, indicated by a red dot, within 24 hours.

In all, the EPA assessed 413,104 miles of waterways within SPAs. The assessment found that 57 percent or 234,459 stream miles, were intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams.

Environmental Protection Agency, Geographic Information Systems Analysis of the Surface Drinking Water Provided by Intermittent, Ephemeral and Headwater Streams in the U.S.

The Environmental Working Group used the EPA's data to identify the number of people living in counties that depend most on small streams. We defined these as counties where:

  • 100 percent of residents depend on surface water for drinking water.
  • More than half of the streams providing source water are intermittent, ephemeral or headwaters streams.
  • The local utility serves at least 1,000 people.

Craig Cox is the senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group. Soren Rundquist is director of spatial analysis at the Environmental Working Group.

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox