By Scott Faber
The staggering number of food and farm workers who have died from Covid-19 has laid bare the Trump administration's disastrous policies on food and farm issues.
President Trump's failure to provide these workers with protections from the coronavirus was the latest bad decision that made our food and the people who produce it less safe, increased hunger, increased the health care costs caused by poor diets and the pollution caused by farms, and made it harder for all Americans to decide how to feed their families.
Now President-elect Biden has a chance to change course. Here's what should be on the menu.
The Trump administration has actually been undermining programs to alleviate hunger. Last year, the Department of Agriculture proposed to kick nearly 700,000 people out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as well as implementing other rules designed to reduce participation in the program, commonly known as food stamps. Just weeks before the election, the administration went to court to block pandemic food aid for the poor.
Biden has pledged to increase the standard SNAP benefit by 15 percent, supports free school meals and wants to rescind rules that limit participation in anti-hunger programs. But increasing SNAP benefits and participation alone will not end hunger. A Biden administration must also address income and housing challenges.
Second, Biden should make it a priority to protect food and farm workers from Covid-19. According to the Food and Environmental Reporting Network, at least 72,000 of these workers have gotten sick and 327 have died.
Biden has said, "[N]o worker's life is worth me getting a cheaper hamburger," and pledged to support policies that protect workers from Covid-19, expand their ability to organize, and provide a $15 minimum wage. To make good on his pledge to protect workers threatened by Covid-19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, must quickly require basic personal protections for workers, boost enforcement and ensure that workers have safe housing and transportation. When food and farm workers get sick from Covid-19, they should receive sick pay so they can stay home. And when they take risks to keep us fed, those risks should be rewarded through premium pay.
Third, Biden should make it a priority to support healthy diets.
Poor diet is now the leading cause of Americans' death, and obesity rates continue to climb, increasing health care costs. The diseases caused by poor diets – such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease – have significantly increased the risks posed by Covid-19.
As a candidate, Biden has not had much to say about diet. But food leaders have had a lot to say about steps we can take to support healthy diets. And Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has been an outspoken supporter of food policy reforms designed to improve our health. For starters, a Biden-Harris administration should immediately restore tough standards for food sold in schools.
Fourth, Biden should revamp Trump's farmer bailout programs to help farmers in real need and restore rules that ensure a farmer gets a fair price.
Trump's policies have been a disaster for farmers. His trade war closed markets that had taken decades to open. His bailouts have favored the wealthiest farmers at the expense of family farms, and rules designed to ensure that farmers get a fair price have been shelved. His inhumane immigration policies have created labor shortages that have harmed both farmers and food manufacturers.
The modest tweaks to ethanol programs Biden has proposed won't make a difference to most farmers. His agriculture secretary must rescind and rewrite the rules for the USDA's Covid-19 response programs to help farmers facing economic ruin and reform other farm subsidy programs to level the playing field for family farmers.
But that's not all. President-elect Biden should also make good on his plan to address long-standing and ongoing discrimination against Black farmers. Farm subsidy reform alone will not be enough to address the long legacy of racial discrimination in farm programs. We must also transform the culture at the USDA, provide land and credit to Black farmers and lift the veil of secrecy that hides the racial makeup of farm subsidies.
Fifth, Biden should make it a priority to keep our food safe.
Contaminated food kills more than 3,000 Americans a year, and a recent audit shows no progress is being made to reduce foodborne illness. But Trump's Department of Agriculture eliminated a requirement to clean hog carcasses, increased line speeds at meat-processing plants and deregulated food safety inspections. His Environmental Protection Agency reversed a ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to brain damage in children, and extended the life of dicamba, another toxic pesticide.
Biden should immediately restore the ban on chlorpyrifos and reverse other Trump administration decisions that fail to protect consumers and farmworkers from pesticides. But the Biden-Harris administration should go further and fix our broken system for reviewing the safety of pesticides and other chemicals in food.
We must also do much more to reduce foodborne illness. We must not only require growers to test irrigation water for pathogens but also combat the growing threat of pathogens in meat and poultry. We must address these risks where they start – in the massive confined feedlots that have taken over much of farm country.
Sixth, the new agriculture secretary should immediately declare a climate emergency and use the resources of the Commodity Credit Corporation to reward farmers who reduce emissions and permanently store carbon in the ground.
Farmers can play a much bigger role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Historic storms have placed farmers on the front lines in the fight against the climate crisis, and legislators have proposed bold ideas to reward farmers who take meaningful and measurable steps to address it. Expanding and reforming voluntary farm stewardship programs to make the climate crisis a top priority and linking farm subsidies to a basic standard of environmental care will also help keep our drinking water clean and safe.
The Covid-19 crisis has shined a spotlight on Trump's food and farm policy failures. Workers are getting sick, and our food supply chains are being tested. Trump's policy failures have also made more consumers sick and pushed many farmers to the brink of financial ruin. A Biden-Harris administration can – and should – do better.
Scott Faber is the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
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By Scott Faber
No candidate for president has ever pledged to make the toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS a priority – until now.
In his environmental justice plan, President-elect Joe Biden pledged to set enforceable limits for PFAS in drinking water and to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance under the Superfund cleanup law.
Here's why that matters.
PFAS chemicals are building up in the blood of every American, posing the risk of serious health problems. PFAS makes vaccines less effective and are linked to cancer, harm to the reproductive system and other health hazards.
More than 200 million Americans are likely drinking water and eating food contaminated with PFAS. Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and Defense Department have for decades failed to address the chemicals' health risks. There are no federal limits on PFAS releases and uses and no requirements to clean up PFAS pollution.
Setting a national drinking water standard for PFAS under the federal Safe Drinking Water would have a huge impact on public health. Right now, only a few states require drinking water utilities to meet tough standards for PFAS in tap water. A national standard that would apply to all utilities would dramatically reduce our overall exposure to PFAS.
Designating PFAS as "hazardous substances" under Superfund would also be historic. By doing so, the Biden-Harris administration would not only kick-start the cleanup process but also require polluters to pay their fair share of cleanup costs.
But that's not all the Biden team has pledged. The president-elect also pledged to prioritize PFAS substitutes in the marketplace. That means Biden could direct the EPA and the FDA to quickly phase out non-essential uses of PFAS in food packaging, cosmetics, sunscreens and other everyday products.
The Biden team will have other tools at its disposal. The president-elect could quickly restrict industrial discharges of PFAS into the air and water by using the tools provided by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and expand reporting of these releases through the Toxic Release Inventory. Right now, more than 2,500 manufacturers are thought to be releasing PFAS with no limits.
The Biden-Harris administration can also direct the Defense Department to accelerate efforts to end the use of PFAS-based firefighting foam, impose a moratorium on the incineration of remaining stocks of PFAS foam, and accelerate PFAS cleanup at military installations. More than 300 military installations are known to be contaminated with PFAS.
No candidates have ever pledged to do as much to address America's environmental challenges as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And that is especially the case for PFAS pollution.
Scott Faber is the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
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Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.
Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.
Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.
For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.
If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.
How Net Metering Works
There are two general ways net metering programs work:
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.
In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.
How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?
Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:
- You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
- If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
- Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.
With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.
You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.
Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.
Is Net Metering Available Near You?
Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.
In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.
If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:
- Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
- Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.
Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.
Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar
Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:
- The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
- State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
- Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.
In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering
Why is net metering bad?
When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.
In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.
How does net metering work?
With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.
Can you make money net metering?
You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.
On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.
By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney
From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration's record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.
One year into President Trump's term, EWG detailed how the Trump administration has stacked the Environmental Protection Agency with industry lawyers and lobbyists, undermined worker safety and cooked the books on chemical safety assessments. Midway through his second year, we reported how the EPA reversed a ban on a brain-damaging pesticide, delayed chemical bans and killed a rule to protect kids from toxic PCBs in schools. Last year, we reported that the EPA had rescinded safety rules at chemical plants, rubber-stamped untested new chemicals and silenced researchers.
As Trump's first term nears its end, things are even worse. Here are 10 more ways the Trump administration has continued to make life more toxic for Americans.
1. Failed to Aggressively Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’
The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate more than 2,200 sites across the nation. Because they never break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "forever chemicals." They build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. Even though the EPA has known about the risks from PFAS chemicals since at least 1998, they remain virtually unregulated.
In February 2019, the EPA released a toothless PFAS "action plan" that lacked deadlines for action and failed to address the use of PFAS in everyday products, contamination from PFAS air emissions or disposal of PFAS waste, among other concerns. A year and a half later, key goals from the plan, including regulating PFAS under the Superfund law and setting drinking water standards, remain unfulfilled.
When Congress stepped in and sought to designate PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious and well-studied PFAS – as "hazardous substances" and to set deadlines for agency action, Trump threatened a veto. Trump's EPA also weakened a rule designed to regulate PFAS in consumer products.
2. Allowed a Rocket Fuel Chemical to Stay in Drinking Water
Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that also frequently contaminates drinking water sources. Perchlorate can interfere with thyroid function, which can also harm childhood brain development.
Almost a decade ago, the EPA determined that these harms warranted regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency then dragged its feet for years. In 2016, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued to force the EPA to finally set a legal limit for perchlorate in drinking water. In a court-approved consent decree, the EPA agreed to propose a standard by October 2018 and finalize it by 2019. However, the EPA sought extensions and failed to meet these deadlines.
The EPA finally proposed a drinking water standard in June 2019 but also suggested that it might not regulate perchlorate after all. A year later, the EPA withdrew its decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.
3. Allowed Scores of New Chemicals, Including New Toxic PFAS, Onto the Market Without Adequate Oversight
In 2016, Congress substantially changed the way new chemicals are approved under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.
Under the old law, chemicals were frequently approved by default, often without any health and safety information. As a result, unsafe chemicals were allowed to be used for years or decades before the health and environmental hazards came to light. Inadequate oversight of new chemicals can also lead to regrettable substitution – when chemicals are finally found to be unsafe, they are often replaced by unstudied chemicals that may be just as or even more toxic.
The 2016 update was supposed to fix the new chemicals program by requiring the EPA to make an affirmative safety finding on new chemicals and restrict use if industry failed to provide sufficient safety data. Nonetheless, the Trump EPA has approved scores of new chemicals in a process that lacks transparency and contravenes the 2016 law. The EPA has also ignored known health concerns, limited its consideration of worker risks and denied requests for public files in the new chemicals program.
The EPA has also exploited loopholes in the new law to quickly approve new chemicals, including toxic PFAS. A recent investigation found that the EPA has been quietly approving new PFAS chemicals, through a provision known as the low volume exemption in the new chemicals program. As a result, the EPA is greenlighting new PFAS chemicals on an expedited basis, without public scrutiny. One PFAS, used in ski wax, was approved despite a finding that the chemical could "waterproof the lungs," resulting in severe health impacts.
Since the law was updated in 2016, the EPA has reviewed more than 3,000 new chemicals submissions. More than 1,000 of these chemicals have been approved through the low volume exemption, and since 2016, manufacturers have begun producing at least 900 new chemicals, many without adequate safety data. Environmental groups have sued the EPA over its failures to protect the public and the environment from risks from new chemicals.
4. Failed to Protect Workers From a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical
Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in paint strippers that is responsible for more than 60 deaths since 1980. In the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed a ban on "methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal."
After significant pressure from families who lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure, the Trump EPA eventually issued a final rule in 2019. However, the EPA narrowed the rule so that it would apply only to consumer uses of methylene chloride, not commercial uses. That means workers are not protected, even though a Center for Public Integrity investigation found that most deaths from methylene chloride take place at work.
A separate EPA evaluation of methylene chloride found that manufacturing, disposal and several other uses of methylene chloride pose no "unreasonable risk." Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging the rule and the recent evaluation.
5. Cooked the Books on the “Civil Action” Chemical
Trichloroethylene is a chemical solvent made infamous by the book and movie "A Civil Action." The EPA considers it to be a known carcinogen, and it is one of the primary contaminants that sickened scores of veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina.
As with methylene chloride, in the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning three uses of TCE: spot cleaning, aerosol degreasing and vapor degreasing. In December 2017, the Trump EPA shelved these proposed bans, claiming that it would study those uses in a separate ongoing risk evaluation of TCE.
However, the EPA dramatically rewrote the accepted science on TCE in the draft risk evaluation released in February. As EWG warned in 2018, the solvents industry aggressively lobbied the EPA to ignore a key 2003 study finding that TCE causes heart deformities in developing fetuses. TCE's connection with fetal heart defects was an important basis for the Obama EPA's decision to ban three uses of TCE. An independent review of the EPA's science found that "prenatal exposure to TCE can cause human cardiac defects" and that the study "remains a valid choice" for assessing risk.
The lobbyists succeeded. The EPA's draft risk evaluation questioned the study's design and minimized its significance. An investigation by Reveal News compared the draft risk evaluation with a leaked earlier draft. It found that the earlier draft had relied extensively on the 2003 study and used it as a benchmark for the risk calculations. Reveal also reported that then-EPA chemicals safety chief Nancy Beck – "the scariest Trump appointee you've never heard of" – ordered that the risk evaluation be rewritten to downplay the risks of TCE. With the EPA giving significantly less weight to risks from fetal heart deformities, it's unlikely the agency will finalize the proposed bans.
6. Pressured EPA Scientists to Drop Evaluations of Toxic Chemicals – Including Formaldehyde
The Trump EPA is undermining the work of independent scientists within the Integrated Risk Information System program, known as IRIS. The program's work is supposed to be impartial and non-political. Its scientific assessments are intended to support the work of other EPA program offices and regional offices. IRIS is a frequent target of chemical industry attacks because its independent safety assessments often don't align with industry objectives.
In 2018, the Trump EPA tried to defund the IRIS program. EPA leadership also pressured IRIS to drop critical health assessments. In March 2019, a Government Accountability Office report disclosed that EPA leadership directed agency offices to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to review, and cut in half the number of IRIS's ongoing or upcoming assessments.
One of the halted assessments was IRIS's decades-long review of formaldehyde, a widely used chemical and known human carcinogen. This is surprising because former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2018 that the report was complete and ready for release. However, answering questions for the record following a 2019 Senate hearing, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said formaldehyde was "not a top priority."
Instead of releasing the IRIS study on formaldehyde to the public, the EPA has instead decided that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – under the leadership of Nancy Beck – should conduct its own assessment of formaldehyde. As with TCE, this action will give the agency an opportunity to distort the science and minimize risks. Because these reviews take years, it will also significantly delay any EPA regulatory action on formaldehyde.
7. Rolled Back Clean Water Protections
Industrial chemical pollutants are often discharged into drinking water supplies. But the Trump administration has made it a priority to roll back the Clean Water Rule, which more clearly defined which kinds of bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. EWG's analysis found that the Clean Water Rule, if implemented as proposed by the Obama administration, would have protected drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans.
The EPA's own science advisors have opposed the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, but the Trump administration repealed it in 2019, proposed its own rule in January and finalized it in April. The new rule covers far fewer bodies of water and would leave 234,000 miles of small streams unprotected. EWG estimates that at least 72 million Americans draw at least half their drinking water from small streams.
Because of the repeal, those bodies of water will no longer be subject to pollution limits. Protection for small and seasonal streams and wetlands is important because they often flow into larger bodies of water, including sources of drinking water. Polluted drinking water sources strain municipal water utilities tasked with filtering out contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and risk exposing the public to more contaminants that aren't regulated under the act.
8. Cooked the Books on Asbestos
Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally occurring chemical linked to a particularly deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. An estimated 40,000 Americans die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Although the toxicity of asbestos is well understood, the EPA has never actually banned most uses. The EPA attempted a ban in 1989, but most of the rule was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.
After Congress reformed TSCA in 2016, the EPA announced that asbestos would be one of the first 10 chemicals reviewed under the new law. Many hoped that this time, the EPA would finally ban asbestos.
Instead, when the EPA released its draft risk evaluation in May, it found that several uses of asbestos, including import of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and distribution of asbestos-containing products, did not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA made its risk determinations by ignoring exposure from "legacy" uses of asbestos, such as old insulation and building tiles. Although in November the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to fix this error, it has yet to do so.
Instead of banning asbestos, in April 2019 the EPA published a rule requiring notice and approval before manufacturers could resume using it in some applications the agency considered abandoned. However, leaked documents show that more than a dozen EPA staffers urged an outright ban on asbestos instead.
9. Proposed a Loophole for Toxic Air Pollution
In July 2019, the Trump EPA proposed to reverse a longstanding policy requiring large power plants, refineries and other industrial polluters to always meet certain strict controls, even after reducing emissions. The new rule creates a loophole in the Clean Air Act regulations that would allow large industrial facilities to reclassify themselves, from "major sources" of air pollution to "area sources."
That change would allow them to opt out of strict pollution control standards, called "maximum achievable control technology," and substantially increase their emissions of dangerous air pollutants. EPA's own data shows that more than 3,900 large facilities that emit pollutants like mercury and benzene could take advantage of this loophole. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates the loophole could increase toxic air emissions by as much as 480 percent, or almost 50 million pounds per year.
This rollback is especially alarming in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. Studies have found that people who live in areas with high levels of air pollution are at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19.
10. Continuing Its Quest to Censor Science
In 2018, the EPA proposed a disastrous rule significantly limiting the kinds of science the agency can rely on to justify environmental regulations. The rule would have prohibited the agency from using studies that don't make their underlying data publicly available or whose results can't be replicated. That change would prevent the EPA from including in its future risk assessments most human health studies, because personal medical data must remain confidential. The rule would undermine studies that are foundational to clean air regulations.
The proposal sparked enormous opposition from scientists, academics and environmental health advocates. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted to the agency, the vast majority in opposition. In September 2019, the EPA dropped the proposal from its regulatory agenda.
But the Trump EPA is at it again. In March, the agency issued a supplemental proposal that is actually worse than the original proposal. The 2018 proposal applied to all "dose response" studies, but the new proposal applies to all studies. The new proposal also applies retroactively, which means the EPA could use it to gut existing regulations.
As these actions – and dozens of others – show, the Trump EPA has aggressively worked to erode and eliminate vital environmental and public health protections. The public needs an EPA that will prioritize people and planet over polluters and profit.
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By Ketura Persellin
Gift-giving is filled with minefields, but the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) got your back, so you don't need to worry about inadvertently giving family members presents laden with toxic chemicals. With that in mind, here are our suggestions for gifts to give your family this season.
Grandma may be surprised to find out that cherished heirlooms from her childhood may be covered with lead-based paint, and this year's plastic "It" toy may contain PVC or other harmful chemicals. Steer well-meaning friends and family toward safer options, like toys made of natural materials like untreated wood, bamboo, hemp or organic cotton.
Healthy Bath Time
Babies' developing brains, organs and hormonal systems are especially sensitive to chemicals of concern hidden in bath products like shampoo, lotion and diaper cream. However, there are an increasing number of EWG VERIFIED™ baby care products, which meet our scientists' strictest ingredient and transparency standards.
For Kids and Teens
Environmental Activism on Trend
Believe it or not, you may see reusable straws on your kids' holiday wish list this year, as teens and tweens are rejecting single-use plastic, pushed by the VSCO girl trend and images of sea turtles killed by plastic waste ubiquitous on social media. Choose from one of the many metal or silicone straws available this season, now in a rainbow of colors, some even sporting their own little carrying case.
Your teen may also appreciate a reusable coffee tumbler to go with that straw.
This way they'll be avoiding the PFAS chemical coating used on paper coffee cups and the side-eye from their friends for using single-use cups and plastic lids. Look for one made of ceramic or stainless steel.
Many types of clothing come with chemicals that can be harmful to children's health, like children's pajamas treated with flame retardants and winter coats coated with PFAS chemicals for waterproofing. To avoid this, choose children's pajamas made out of cotton and/or marked as not flame resistant on the tag. To make sure what you're giving doesn't contain toxic fluorinated chemicals, check out this list of companies making PFAS-free clothing and shoes.
Clean beauty and elaborate skin care routines are also trending this year. Children are the most susceptible to the health harms associated with endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and other chemicals of concern in personal care products. Use EWG's Skin Deep® and EWG VERIFIED™ databases to find gift ideas for the kids on your list – without dangerous chemicals. These include:
- Stuff stockings with green-rated lip balm.
- Clean makeup options – like eye shadow, highlighter and mascara – that will let them keep up with the latest makeup tutorial while still protecting their health.
- Face masks – trendy among the teenage set – but who knows what ingredients they typically contain? Steer clear of harmful chemicals by finding one that's Skin Deep® green-rated or EWG VERIFIED, like one of these. (Keep in mind that single-use products have more of an impact on the environment.)
- The gift of an after-shave lotion or balm made with safer chemicals. Kids who have just started to shave will be pleased to have that milestone acknowledged.
For your Partner or Spouse
If you're lucky enough to have another adult along for the ride during your childrearing years, thank them with a holiday gift that's free from chemicals of concern.
Detox Their Coffee Routine
There are many beautiful and plastic-free options for the sleep-deprived adults on your list – pour-over coffee makers are simple for making a single cup and come in many glass and ceramic styles. You can even find a reusable stainless steel filter. For multiple cup operations, choose a double-wall glass French press (the double wall keeps coffee warmer, longer) or a stainless steel percolator.
Grown-Ups Love Clean Beauty, Too
- A splurge for a special man or woman on your list is Henry Rose, the fragrance created by EWG board member Michelle Pfeiffer. It's EWG's first fine fragrance that's 100 percent transparent – made without EWG's chemicals of concern, with full ingredient disclosure on the label and to EWG.
- A luxurious beard oil and brush kit makes a great gift. Look for beard oils with a green rating in the Skin Deep® database and brushes with wood or bamboo handles.
- Makeup wipes are hot right now, but their disposable nature and questionable ingredients are not as fun. Look for reusable cotton wipes in undyed organic cotton.
Green Kitchens Are More Than a Design Trend
If you're like most parents, you try to feed your family without exposing them to harmful chemicals. So it's a disappointment to discover that the cookware and food storage you've been using might be toxic. Surprise the chef on your list with a few cleaner, greener product swaps:
- Cast iron or carbon steel sauté pans and griddles are beautiful, long-lasting alternatives to nonstick cookware, which is often made with toxic PFAS, the notorious Teflon chemical.
- Enamel-coated pots and Dutch ovens in bright, beautiful colors that any chef would be happy to add to their collection.
- Waffle makers and crepe pans are a gift everyone can enjoy – but they're typically coated with nonstick chemicals. Instead, choose a waffle maker made of cast iron or coated with enamel, or a crepe pan made of lightweight carbon steel.
You want to feed your family more vegetables, but getting your kids' buy-in is no small challenge. One approach: Your purchase of the 2019 EWG Holiday Gift Box includes the new cookbook by noted chef Abra Behrens, Ruffage, lauded as a both an homage to vegetables and a practical guide. Bonus: Proceeds support EWG's ongoing research and advocacy work.
- EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays - EcoWatch ›
- How to Shop Sustainably - EcoWatch ›
- 4 Eco-Friendly Drinking Straw Alternatives So You Can Skip Plastic ... ›
By Karen Spangler
If you're a new parent, it can be confusing to keep up with the latest recommendations about how to give your baby a healthy start. As scientists learn more about the dangers of toxic chemical exposure to babies' developing bodies and brains, some products haven't stood the test of time. Here are three of the biggest differences about what parents do now compared to just a generation ago.
1. Choosing Organic
Parents have been making their own baby food at home for generations, and it's a great way to know what's on your baby's plate. Who doesn't love some home-mashed sweet potatoes smeared across that cute face? But today we know more about the damaging health effects of pesticide exposure, and how long pesticide residue can linger in the fruits and vegetables we buy. Doctors recommend limiting babies' pesticide exposure as much as possible due to increased risks of tumors, leukemia and effects on brain development from these chemicals.
When you're making your baby's first foods, consider organic fruits and vegetables, or those with lower levels of pesticide residues. EWG's 2019 ranking of pesticide contamination in produce found that avocados were No. 1 on the Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least contaminated with pesticide residue. Of all the produce tested, strawberries, spinach and kale top the Dirty Dozen™ list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue. To reduce your baby's exposure, buy versions of these items produced with organic farming methods.
If you're short of time, don't forget you have more options than ever for organic premade baby food, both at specialty retailers and major grocery stores.
2. Tossing the Baby Powder
Baby powder is another classic you'd think would be great for, well, babies. But airborne particles can make their way into a baby's lungs, which is especially concerning since talcum powder can contain unknown amounts of asbestos. Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen, and inhaling even a tiny amount can cause cancer later in life. Make sure to check EWG's Skin Deep® so you avoid using other products on your baby that could contain talc.
There's another reason to ditch the baby powder: It often contains fragrance, a common cause of skin irritation. Manufacturers are allowed to keep the exact fragrance ingredients under wraps, but they can include chemicals such as phthalates, which have been linked to harmful health effects.
Good alternatives: Zinc-based diaper creams create a strong protective barrier, and there are a number of EWG VERIFIED™ options. You can also find safer alternatives for your baby's personal care products in EWG's guide to choosing safer personal care products for kids.
3. Avoiding Flame Retardants
Decades ago, concerns about the fire danger of foam furniture, like sofas and mattresses, led manufacturers to add flame-retardant chemicals to many kids' products. Today scientists know these toxic chemicals carry their own serious health effects, including cancer and disruption of the endocrine system.
Penta-BDE, for years the main flame retardant added to foam products, is now banned, due to reproductive toxicity. But its replacement, triphenyl phosphate, has also been shown to accumulate in the bloodstream and cause reproductive and developmental abnormalities in animals. Considering that the average infant sleeps 12 to 16 hours a day, it's worth scrutinizing that mattress label.
To keep your baby safe, choose a crib mattress made with wool or polylactic acid for flame resistance, rather than chemical flame retardants. You should also make sure to check with the manufacturer on any hand-me-downs for flame retardants.
Additionally, avoid PVC or vinyl waterproof mattress covers; choose natural cotton with a PUL layer, or polyethylene instead.
To steer clear of flame retardants in your baby's clothing, choose snug-fitting cotton or wool pajamas, as "loose-fitting" kids' sleepwear is required by law to be flame resistant, often using toxic chemicals.
To learn more about protecting your child's health as they grow, see EWG's Children's Health Initiative for the latest research and tip sheets.
By Grace Francese
Outbreaks of potentially toxic algae are fouling lakes, rivers and other bodies of water across the U.S. Nationally, news reports of algae outbreaks have been on the rise since 2010.
What's worse, some algae blooms produce dangerous toxins called microcystins. The Environmental Working Group just released a report showing that microcystins have been found in lakes across the U.S. – even when there's no visible toxic algae outbreak.
Here's what you should know about kids' and pets' safety around potentially dangerous water and what you can do to prevent the growth of algae blooms.
What are algae blooms?
These smelly blooms aren't actually algae at all, but photosynthetic microorganisms called cyanobacteria.
Runoff from farm fields is often polluted with phosphorous and other chemicals in manure and commercial fertilizers. When this polluted runoff gets into lakes, it feeds the growth of cyanobacteria, especially in warm weather. Increasingly heavy rains and flooding, exacerbated by the climate crisis, make the problem worse.
What are microcystins?
Many algae blooms are gross, forming a foul-smelling slime on a lake's surface, but not hazardous. But for reasons no one yet understands, some produce poisonous chemicals called cyanotoxins, including the group known as microcystins.
What are the health risks?
Microcystin-producing cyanobacteria are a hazard to anyone, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children are especially vulnerable, since they're most likely to ingest water while swimming. Exposure can cause coughing, nausea, weakness, cramping and headaches, as well as long-term health effects such as liver failure.
Contact with skin, drinking contaminated tap water or eating contaminated fish can also cause health problems. Even breathing in microcystins can be harmful, and recent studies have shown that the toxins can become airborne, drifting a mile or more from the site of the outbreak.
How can I recognize and avoid algae blooms?
The best approach is to check with your city, county or state health departments, which may issue warnings. You can also use EWG's mapto see whether authorities have found microcystins in a particular lake in the past few years.
If you can't find information about a specific lake, get to know the warning signs. Look out for dead fish or animals in or near the water, and slime that looks like blue, blue-green, bright green or dark green spilled paint.
Only experts who test the water can determine definitively whether an algae bloom is toxic. So if you come across what looks like an algae outbreak, stay away – even if you're not sure it's toxic. Don't swim in it, and do your best to avoid breathing the air around it. Contact your health department and alert local news media.
What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to a toxic algae outbreak?
If you think your child has come into contact with toxic algae, or shows flu-like symptoms after playing in or near it, rinse them off with water. Make sure they also drink plenty of water. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How can we prevent algae blooms?
Farming practices like vegetative buffers along streams and rivers help minimize runoff, but these practices won't be widely implemented without regulations that require farmers to apply them.
Ideally, states would test lakes and other bodies of water for microcystins and other cyanotoxins and warn the public when there's danger. But EWG's new report found that only 20 states test regularly for microcystins and make the data public, and often only after a delay.
The Environmental Protection Agency should regulate these toxins to protect our tap water supplies. More than two-thirds of all Americans get their drinking water from utilities that rely at least in part on lakes, rivers or other surface water. Yet the EPA doesn't regulate the level of microcystins and other cyanotoxins in drinking water.
By Nicole Ferox
When my daughter was in preschool, she told me that instead of washing hands before lunch, the children used hand sanitizer. The thinking behind this was probably that hand sanitizer kills bacteria and viruses and therefore — presto! — problem solved. Hands are clean, and it's so much quicker.
But hand sanitizer isn't designed to remove the chemicals, heavy metals and toxic dust that stick to kids' hands. Only soap and water can do that. So instead of washing away those toxic contaminants, my daughter was probably eating them with her snack.
There are many ways schools can reduce children's cumulative exposure to chemicals and contaminants, and many are relatively simple. Here are eight important questions to ask:
1. Do the kids wash their hands before they eat?
Requiring hand washing with soap and water, especially after kids have been outside and before they eat, is arguably the easiest change schools can make to reduce kids' exposure to chemical pollutants from dust and other sources.
2. What cleaning products does the school use?
We recommend schools use cleaning products that are third-party green certified, which means their ingredients are safer for everyone, especially children, or products with an A, or green, rating in our Guide to Healthy Cleaning. For institutional cleaning supplies, schools should choose Green Seal, EcoLogo or EPA's Safer Choice-certified products only.
3. Has the school had its drinking water tested for lead?
There's no safe level of lead exposure, but most states don't require schools and child care centers to test their drinking water for lead. If the water hasn't been tested at your kids' school, urge administrators to contact the local health department to start the process. Since lead levels in a single building can vary, all faucets and drinking fountains should be tested. In California, one in five schools has found at least one faucet on their campus with water containing lead.
4. What landscaping chemicals are used?
Chances are good your school uses chemical fertilizers, weedkillers and other pesticides for playground and grounds maintenance. Many of them, especially pesticides, are toxic and linked to childhood cancer and autism. Talk to your school about safer landscaping alternatives, with EWG's guide and collection of resources as a starting point.
5. Does the school serve organic foods?
A good first step is to focus on foods where switching from conventional to organic will make the biggest impact: milk and meat, fruits, and veggies with the most pesticides; foods grown with particularly toxic pesticides; and snacks with the worst food additives.
Questions to ask your kid’s child care center or preschool:
6. Are the nap mats made without flame retardants?
A study conducted by the Washington state-based nonprofit Toxic-Free Future found that when child care providers replaced nap mats with chemical-free versions, the levels of flame retardants polluting children's bodies decreased by 40 to 90 percent. It's a safe guess that mats made in 2014 and earlier were treated with chemical flame retardants; 2015 or newer mats are more likely to be untreated and are required to bear a label stating whether they have added flame retardants.
7. What kind of laundry detergent does the facility use?
To avoid fragrances, allergens and other ingredients that can irritate children's skin, we recommend child care providers choose detergent with a green A rating in our Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
8. What kind of sunscreen do care providers use?
Sunscreen is especially important for kids, who are more susceptible to the ill effects of the sun. We recommend care providers avoid chemical sunscreens and instead choose a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen with active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Use EWG's Guide to Sunscreens to find products that offer adequate protection from both UVA and UVB rays without the addition of hazardous chemicals.
Want to know everything you can about building a healthy indoor environment at school? Explore EWG's extensive buying guides for building products, paints, furniture, mattress, carpets and other products in the Healthy Living Home Guide.
By Grace Francese
You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.
But by making a few changes to your grocery list, you can avoid the foods most likely to be contaminated with chlorpyrifos. Here's what you need to know about this chemical.
Dangerous but Legal
Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin — it affects the nervous system and brain, and even small amounts of exposure can cause permanent health damage to babies and children. These health effects can include impairment of children's IQ and harm to the parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion. A new study from the University of Southern Denmark also links chlorpyrifos exposure in pregnant women to ADHD in their children.
Because millions of pounds of chlorpyrifos are sprayed on crops every year, most Americans are exposed to it through milk, fruit and other produce. Research by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that babies and developing fetuses are exposed to about five times more chlorpyrifos than what the EPA's standard deems safe, and children consume chlorpyrifos at 11 to 15 times the EPA standard.
Despite this, in 2017 the Trump EPA decided to ignore science in favor of the pesticide industry and cancelled a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos. Now the EPA won't act to keep it out of milk and produce for at least another five years. While the EPA waits to evaluate chlorpyrifos again, roughly 30 million pounds of this chemical will be sprayed on crops, risking the health of children across the U.S.
The EPA's failure to ban chlorpyrifos has even more harmful consequences for farm workers and their families. According to The Guardian newspaper, parents in California's Central Valley, which has some of the heaviest use of chlorpyrifos in the country, fear that drifting clouds of pesticides are causing their children's chronic health problems, including learning problems and attention deficit disorders. They're just not sure about possible solutions.
"We know this is dangerous for the kids," said one mother of five, "but what are we supposed to do?"
Keeping Your Family Safe
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) supports a complete ban on chlorpyrifos, such as a bill currently under consideration in the Senate. EWG is also urging grocery stores to stop supplying foods that could have residues of chlorpyrifos.
In the meantime, switching to organic milk and organic versions of the most potentially contaminated produce is a great way to cut this pesticide out of your diet. Chlorpyrifos residues are most often detected on some imported produce, so skip buying peaches and nectarines imported from Chile, bell peppers and hot peppers imported from Mexico, and domestic and imported cilantro.
By Nicole Ferox
It's that time of year: Mosquitoes and ticks are out in full force, and so are all the latest bug repellent products claiming to keep them at bay. So what bug repellent ingredients do Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists recommend for kids? Our top picks are DEET, Picaridin and IR3535. These ingredients have low safety concerns and offer a high level of protection from a variety of biting insects and ticks.
But check the bottle's active ingredients for concentration percentages. The product should contain a maximum of 10 percent DEET, 20 percent Picaridin or 20 percent IR3535 for children.
One exception: If you're using DEET to protect kids in an area known for ticks' carrying Lyme disease bacteria or for Zika outbreaks, a concentration of 20 percent to 30 percent may be appropriate. (See our Guide to Bug Repellents for details and links to the Centers for Disease Control's list of insect-borne outbreaks, below.)
Contrary to popular belief, bug repellents with higher concentrations — such as old-school 100 percent DEET — are not necessarily more effective and may even be harmful. To avoid that risk, we recommend steering clear of DEET products with concentrations more than 30 percent. The concentration determines the protection time. If there's no risk of bug-borne disease in your area, choose a spray with a lower concentration and reapply if necessary.
Can I really use DEET? I thought it was dangerous.
Yes, DEET is a reasonable choice when used as directed, even for children. Still, after reviewing the evidence, EWG researchers concluded that it is best to use the lowest effective concentration of DEET, even though it's effective and generally safer than is commonly assumed.
Picaridin is a great alternative to DEET. It effectively repels both mosquitoes and ticks and, compared to other repellents, is less likely to irritate eyes and skin.
EWG research indicates that, in general, "natural" bug repellent ingredients like castor, cedar, citronella, clove, geraniol, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and/or soybean oils are often not the best choice.
How do I know if there’s a risk of insect-borne disease in my area?
Ask your pediatrician or check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maps listed below. If you're traveling internationally, check the CDC website for information about the Zika virus.
- How to Choose the Best Sunscreen for Your Kids - EcoWatch ›
- Nitrates in Tap Water: What Parents Need to Know - EcoWatch ›
By Anne Schechinger
Over the Fourth of July holiday, many of us love to beat the heat in a favorite lake, pond or river. But this year, vacationers from coast to coast will have to look out for a potentially record-breaking number of algae blooms.
So far this year there have been news stories about 107 algae outbreaks, compared to just 63 this time last year. That's a 70 percent increase. EWG's interactive map tracks news reports of blue-green algae blooms across the country since 2010, and this year is on track to have the most so far.
Recreating in or near water stricken by an algae bloom can lead to serious health consequences. Short-term exposure — whether through skin contact or ingestion — to the toxins sometimes produced by algae outbreaks has been linked to sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage.
These outbreaks don't just affect peoples' health, they also hurt their wallets. Algae keeps people away from businesses near affected lakes, such as marinas and restaurants.
Lake Hopatcong, in New Jersey, is currently suffering the biggest bloom ever recorded in the state. Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis says it could have devastating impacts on the health of residents and his town's economy.
In many cases, algae outbreaks are preventable. Reducing the amount of chemicals that run off farm fields can greatly reduce the number and severity of blooms in agricultural areas.
Lake Macbride, in Iowa, is an example of a lake surrounded by farmland that has algae bloom and E. coli problems. Mandated agricultural conservation practices could go a long way toward cleaning up water bodies like Lake Macbride.
If you plan a lake outing this holiday, it's vital to know what to look for to figure out whether a toxic blue-green algae bloom is present in the water. Before your next trip to a lake, check out our new video to find out.
By Grace Francese
A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study published in Environmental Research found that nitrate, one of the most common contaminants of drinking water, may cause up to 12,594 cases of cancer per year, but that's not its only danger: It can pose unique health risks to children.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to keep your family safe.
Why is nitrate dangerous?
Most of the nitrate that ends up in public water systems comes from agricultural runoff that contains nitrogen fertilizer and manure. Although everyone may be exposed to nitrate, it poses the greatest risk to infants and pregnant women.
The potential harm of nitrate may begin during pregnancy, and at levels far lower than the legal standard. EWG estimates that every year, it may cause up to 2,939 cases of very low birth weight, up to 1,725 cases of very preterm birth and up to 41 cases of neural tube defects.
Infants fed formula made with water contaminated by nitrate above the federal legal standard run the risk methemoglobinemia, also known as "blue baby syndrome" — a rare but serious condition that blocks the blood's ability to carry oxygen. The EPA's current limit for nitrate in drinking water — 10 parts per million, or ppm — was set to prevent blue baby syndrome. Current research suggests that the standard, set in 1962, is long past due for an update.
Research shows that even a level of nitrate less than one-tenth of the current legal limit may cause harm to a developing fetus, but earlier this year, EPA suspended its planned reevaluation of the nitrate standard.
Although nitrate can be removed with at-home water filtration technologies, options are limited and can be expensive. It's less costly to keep nitrate out of drinking water in the first place, with policies and community-based efforts to protect source water, such as installing nitrate-removal treatment at water treatment plants.
"Millions of Americans are being involuntarily exposed to nitrate, and they are also the ones paying the heavy costs of treating contaminated tap water," said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., a toxicologist and author of EWG's new nitrate study. "But the federal government is not doing enough to protect Americans from tap water contamination."
What can you do?
EWG has tools you can use to protect your family from nitrate contamination to your drinking water.
First, use EWG's Tap Water Database to find out whether you may be exposed to nitrate. If you have your own well, a state-certified facility can test for nitrate and other contaminants. Your local county cooperative extension program may provide well testing, maybe even at reduced or even no cost. It is especially important to get your well water tested if you live in farm country, where nitrate pollution is often worse.
If your water contains nitrate levels close to the EPA limit of 10 ppm, switch immediately to a different source of drinking water and install a water filtration system designed to remove nitrate. Even if your nitrate level is lower, you may want to install a water filter. Just be aware that carbon filters won't suffice to reduce nitrate. The EPA recommends reverse osmosis or ion exchange systems. Consult EWG's Water Filter Guide for filters that can protect against ntirate and other contaminants.
If you have a formula-fed baby, instead of using unfiltered tap water to mix formula, follow EWG guidelines to find a water filter system that will remove nitrate. Or use water that's been filtered by distillation or reverse osmosis, as indicated on the label.
By Ketura Persellin
You've likely heard that eating meat and poultry isn't good for your health or the planet. Recent news from Washington may make meat even less palatable: Pork inspections may be taken over by the industry itself, if a Trump administration proposal goes into effect, putting tests for deadly pathogens into the hands of the industry.
In spite of that, global consumption of beef, lamb and goat is expected to rise by almost 90 percent between 2010 and 2050. This may not surprise you, given how many kids love burgers and fries. With that in mind, here are seven reasons you and your family might want to become a vegetarian — or at least cut down on how much meat you eat.
1. Environmental damage. Industrial-scale meat and poultry production harms the environment — from the pesticides used to grow feed and the manure that runs off into waterways to the fertilizer that releases greenhouse gases and then pollutes rivers, lakes and oceans. You know the slime covering the lake where you spend time every summer? Tell your kids that large-scale meat and dairy production connects directly to the sign at the lake saying it's not safe for them to swim. And it's not just a matter of your vacation plans: That slime can cause permanent harm to people and animals and destroy marine ecosystems.
2. Climate change. Kids love fart jokes, but cow flatulence isn't just a laugh line, but a significant contributor to climate crisis. Cow burps play an even bigger role, producing 22 percent of U.S. emissions of methane, a gas with a worse effect on the climate crisis than carbon dioxide. Eliminating or reducing meat from your diet is the biggest contribution an individual can make to helping mitigate climate disaster. And because of their developing bodies, children are more vulnerable to the harmful chemicals emitted by pesticides and fertilizer, as well as disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change.
3. General health. The hormones fed to animals on factory farms can increase the chance of cancer in people who eat it. Red and processed meat have been linked to chronic disease, including cancer. Meat is a primary source of dioxins, a group of pollutants connected to reproductive and hormonal issues, and negative impacts on the developing fetus. By contrast, a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of cancer and lower the incidence of heart disease. One large study shows vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index than meat eaters and are one-fourth less likely to die of heart disease.
4. Expense. The cost of meat is coming down as demand for it grows, but a diet that doesn't include meat is easier on the wallet. For instance, as a source of protein, legumes are far less expensive than meat and poultry.
5. Sustainability. Production of meat and dairy hogs resources. It uses grassland inefficiently, and a tremendous amount of water, and that's just for starters. Cutting it out entirely, or just reducing your consumption, will benefit the environment.
6. Drug resistance. Most kids are untroubled by the abstract idea of drug resistance, but Mom and Dad should worry. Animal overcrowding in factory farms increases livestock's risk of illness. Farmers try to "solve" the problem by routinely dosing even healthy animals with antibiotics, which can lead to antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." Over time, with the overuse of antibiotics, these bacteria, such as salmonella, become resistant to the many forms of antibiotics commonly used to treat sick children. According to a recent EWG report, 20 percent of salmonella strains found on grocery store chicken were resistant to the drug. This makes it far more difficult to treat children, who are more likely than adults to get salmonella in the first place.
7. Environmental justice. Your family's meat consumption makes an immediate impact on the people, including kids, living near the factory animal farms where most meat is produced. The stench of manure that reaches for miles is something the people who live nearby — often people of color of lower economic means — can't escape. When it rains, it's likely the ensuing runoff will flood the neighborhood with manure, fertilizer and other debris. In addition to nausea, headaches and other health problems, factory farm neighbors see increases in the cases and severity of respiratory illnesses, including asthma, to which children are especially vulnerable. Unable to spend time outside, residents feel trapped indoors. Their drinking water wells can be contaminated, and so can the rivers and streams where they fish.
Not ready to eliminate meat entirely? Resolve simply to eat less of it. Consider meat a meal's side show, for instance, instead of the star. Or make some meals completely meatless. If you eat one less burger a week, it's as if you'd taken your car off the road for 320 miles or line-dried your clothes half the time. That's the thinking behind the New York school district's decision to institute Meatless Mondays, and it's a good rule of thumb: Small changes do add up.
And there's no need to worry your kids won't get enough protein if you cut the meat and dairy. Americans eat too much meat, and too much protein in general. The average child age four to six years old needs just two small servings a day — one ounce of meat or fish, or an egg, is one serving — and age seven to 10, a slightly larger portion of two to three ounces.
Most adults eat too much protein too, so while you're at it, you may want to take a look at your own portion control. Here are the USDA's protein guidelines.
Vegan Meat Substitutes: The Ultimate Guide https://t.co/FBOSU1BMV9— Vegan Future (@veganfuture) February 4, 2019
Ketura Persellin is the editor at Environmental Working Group.