Posts tagged with "Environmental Working Group"

Testing the waters: Researchers find contaminants in U.S. tap water could cause100,000+ cancer diagnoses

September 23, 2019

How many glasses of water should you drink a day? None, if you get your water from the tap and reside in a major U.S. city, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group announced on September 19.

Indeed, a study that the group claims is the first cumulative assessment of cancer risks due to 22 carcinogenic contaminants found in drinking water nationwide has found “a toxic cocktail of chemical pollutants in U.S. drinking water that could result in more than 100,000 cancer cases” annually.

In a paper published in the journal, Heliyon, EWG scientists used a novel analytical framework that calculated the combined health impacts of carcinogens in 48,363 community water systems in the United States—but did not include water quality information for the 13.5 million American households that rely on private wells for their drinking water.

“Drinking water contains complex mixtures of contaminants, yet government agencies currently assess the health hazards of tap water pollutants one by one,” said Sydney Evans, lead author of the paper and a science analyst at EWG. “In the real world, people are exposed to combinations of chemicals, so it is important that we start to assess health impacts by looking at the combined effects of multiple pollutants.”

This cumulative approach is common in assessing the health impacts of exposure to air pollutants but has never before been applied to a national dataset of drinking water contaminants. This model builds on a cumulative cancer risk assessment of water contaminants in the State of California and offers a deeper insight into national drinking water quality. As defined by U.S. government agencies, the calculated cancer risk applies to a statistical lifetime, or approximately 70 years.

Most of the increased cancer risk is due to contamination with arsenic, disinfection byproducts,;and radioactive elements such as uranium and radium, the researchers said.

Water systems with the highest risk tend to serve smaller communities and rely on groundwater. These communities often need improved infrastructure and resources to provide safe drinking water to their residents. However, large surface water systems contribute a significant share of the overall risk due to the greater population served and the consistent presence of disinfection byproducts.

“The vast majority of community water systems meet legal standards,” said Olga Naidenko, EWG’s vice president for Science Investigations. “Yet the latest research shows that contaminants present in the water at those concentrations—perfectly legal—can still harm human health.”

“We need to prioritize source water protection, to make sure that these contaminants don’t get into the drinking water supplies to begin with,” Naidenko added.

Consumers who are concerned about chemicals in their tap water can install a water filter to help reduce their exposure to contaminants.

Research contact: @EWG

Flame-retardant home furnishings may cause aggressive behavior in children

March 27, 2019

Flame retardants originally were meant to protect us from dangerous, fast-spreading fires—but now, cautious parents are checking their sofas and upholstery; as well as electronic equipment, textiles, cleaning products, and even non-stick cookware, to ensure that they don’t contain these chemicals.

Over the past few years, scientists have warned that exposure to fire-resistant chemicals (PBDEs and OPFRs)—which seep out of home furnishings and into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil in which we plant crops—can lead to lower IQs, hyperactivity, poor motor skills, and learning disabilities in developing babies and young children.

But now, Parents magazine reports, new research at Oregon State University in Corvallis has established a significant relationship between social behaviors among children and their exposure to flame retardants.

Indeed, Molly Kile, an environmental epidemiologist and associate professor in the College of Pubic Health and Human Sciences at OSU, noted, “When we analyzed behavior assessments and exposure levels, we observed that the children who had more exposure to certain types of the flame retardant were more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors such as aggression, defiance, hyperactivity, inattention and bullying.”

Kile, the corresponding author of the study, which was published on March 9 in the journal Environmental Health, added, “”This is an intriguing finding because no one had previously studied the behavioral effects of organophosphate classes of flame retardants, which have been added to consumer products more recently.”

During the course of the study, the OSU team observed 92 children, ages three through five—all of whom had been exposed to some level of flame retardant chemicals. After analyzing data collected from parent, teacher, and caregiver questionnaires, the researchers found that the kids who were exposed to higher levels of the chemicals displayed more aggression.

The results are definitely a cause for concern, considering flame retardants have been around since the mid-1970s, and can be found in such a wide variety of items in the home. The Environmental Working Group— a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment— offers the following tips:

  • Buy flame-retardant-free products (check labels);
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter and wet mop household surfaces;
  • Wash hands before eating;
  • Dispose of damaged cushions and replace with retardant-free versions; and
  • Don’t ever try to reupholster furniture or replace carpeting yourself.

Research contact: @parentsmagazine

Bail on kale: It has too many pesticides!

March 21, 2019

Americans have been nothing short of kale-obsessed for the past few years: In fact—following a flirtation with broccoli in the 1980s and pesto in the 1990s—we have become so fixated on the leafy, green vegetable that it has seen a 400% increase on U.S. restaurant menus since 2008, according to Technomic, a research service for the food and beverage industry.

But foodies should get ready to move on to another “k-food” in the near future—maybe kelp, or kimchi, or kefir or kombucha. An annual study by a nonprofit environmental group has found that—despite its high levels of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and K —kale just might be less healthful than you think.

Interestingly enough, Kale ranked third on the Environmental Working Group’s “2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”—a list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues, according to a recent report by Fortune magazine. That was a big jump for the leafy green, which hasn’t appeared at all on the list since 2009.

“More than 92% of kale samples had two or more pesticide residues detected, and a single sample could contain up to 18 different residues,” the report read.

Strawberries and spinach took the number one and two spots, respectively, the business news outlet reported. Kale and spinach samples had, on average, 1.1 to 1.8 times more pesticide residue by weight than any other crop, said the EWG.

Other foods on the Dirty Dozen list, in decreasing order of their pesticide residues, include: nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes.

The annual study looks at pesticide levels on nearly 41,000 fruits and vegetables that are tested by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture.

Unlike other pesticide-focused studies, this one does not search for a specific brand, such as the weed killer used in Roundup.

Pesticides are regularly used in agriculture, of course, and food service companies say the levels are far below those that have been found to be unsafe for human consumption.

Not all fruits and veggies were denigrated, however. The EWG also put out its “Clean 15” list of the produce with the lowest levels of pesticide residue. Avocados topped that list, followed by sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons. .

Research contact: @ewg