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Environmental Working Group (EWG)

A U.S. non-profit that tries to protect the interests of consumers through research and reports regarding the levels of toxic substances in all types of products and the pesticides harmful to human health and the environment. Their public denouncements are based on facts, not demagoguery.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) sites the following as fundamental objectives:

  • The protection of the most vulnerable segments of the human population—children, babies and infants still in the womb—from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants.
  • The replacement of U.S. federal policies, like the government subsidies that damage the environment and natural resources, with policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development.

The Environmental Working Group specializes in financing and publishing research related to industrial and political issues that aren’t usually covered in depth by the traditional mass media.

The EWG has published several reports regarding toxins:

  • The U.S. federal policies regarding agricultural subsidies and the management of public property are one of the priorities of the organization. The EWG has repeatedly denounced the support of crops like corn that are subsidized in exchange for political aid while organic agriculture lacks funding in the U.S.
  • Another focus of attention for the non-profit is the independent vigilance of corporate accountability: the principle that establishes that individuals, organizations and the community are responsible to their stockholders and should be required to show third party transparency.

EWG Action Fund is as the legal arm of the organization.

EWG projects and areas of study

Toxic substances in the human body:

  • The body burden: the quantity of industrial chemicals that are building up in all of us- “from grandparents to babies still in the womb”.
  • The presence of pesticides in the human body.
  • The study of the relationship between mercury and autism.
  • Toxic substances and infant health.

Toxic substances in our environment:

  • Air pollution.
  • Arsenic in treated wood.
  • Asbestos. Due to its properties- it has large and resistant fibers that can separate and intertwine, besides resisting high temperatures-, asbestos is used in building materials, textiles, containers and even talc. It is a toxic material for living organisms and contaminates the air and water. While the EWG attributes ten thousand American deaths per year due to diseases caused by asbestos, its manufacturing and sale is still legal in the U.S.
  • Study of cosmetics and personal care products (the Skin Deep study and the cosmetic safety database http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/splash.php?URI=%2Findex.php).
  • Study of PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), used to make products more fire resistant can be found in carpets, furniture and the plastic coverings of electronics. PBDEs, very toxic for living organisms, can be detected in the air and dust nearly everywhere on the planet, as shown by the EWG.
  • MTBE (an inflammable liquid that has been used since the 80s to improve gasoline performance). MTBE has been proven toxic.
  • Reports on PBT, organic compounds resistant to environmental decomposition that, given their persistence in the environment, are increasing at an unstoppable level.
  • Phlalates, chemical compounds used in plastic packaging and, controversially, as solvents in perfumes and pesticides. The EWG claims that the widespread use of phlalates in cosmetic products can damage the embryonic development of pregnant women, as well as causing cancer.
  • Teflon/Scotchguard (PFC), a polymer used as a non-stick and impermeable material in many products, including kitchenware. Although DuPont, the company that developed the product, assures that teflon has a practically non-existent toxicity, it has been demonstrated that its deterioration in kitchenware is deadly for birds and can cause problems for humans. Despite being a chemical product unregulated by the EPA (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), at least one of its components, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) has been proven carcinogenic, according to the EPA.

Toxic substances present in food and water:

  • Benzene (used in refreshments). Benzene is used as a colorless organic chemical compound in plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers, detergents, medicines and pesticides. It is also present in the petroleum, crude oil, gasoline, cigarette smoke. It has serious effects on human health; for that reason the EWG is trying to publicize its industrial use to the U.S. public.
  • Drinking water.
  • Farmed salmon.
  • The use of fluoride as an additive in drinking water. Fluoride has been proven toxic in high doses.
  • Food Security.
  • The presence of mercury in fish and shellfish.
  • Pesticides.
  • The use of perchlorate as a fuel for space missions and in herbicides. Perchlorate use continues despite being highly toxic to human being (it irreversibly affects the thyroid glands).

According to the EWG, their mission is “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.”

  • For more information on the Environmental Working Group, in Wikipedia.