Environmental Working Group
|Location||Washington, D.C.The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability. EWG is a non-profit organization (501(c)(3)) whose mission, according to their website, is “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.”
Issue areas and projects
EWG works on three main policy or issue areas: toxic chemicals and human health; farming and agricultural subsidies; and public lands and natural resources. EWG’s largest focus is reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)[when?]. When the act passed it declared safe some 62,000 chemicals already on the market, even though there were little or no data to support this policy. Since that time another 20,000 chemicals have been put into commercial circulation in the US, also with little or no data to support their safety. EWG is working to pass the Kid-Safe Chemical Act which requires that industrial chemicals be safe for infants, kids and other vulnerable groups.
Toxic chemicals and human health
52 percent of EWG’s resources go to toxic chemicals and human health.
Millions of Americans are at potential risk from Chromium VI contamination in their drinking water. Homeowners can protect themselves from the contaminant with a
EWG publishes a database of agricultural subsidies and their recipients. The EWG Action Fund advocates for farm bill reform in the form of decreased disaster payments and subsidies for commodity crops, and increased funding for nutrition programs, conservation, specialty crops (i.e. fruits and vegetables), and organic agriculture.
Cell phone radiation report
EWG launched a cell phone radiation report in September that stated while the long term effects of cell phone radiation are still being studied, there is sufficient research that shows higher risk for brain and salivary gland tumors among heavy cell phone users. EWG encouraged consumers to look up their cell phone’s radiation level, and to wear a headset when talking on the phone to limit their exposure.
Skin Deep is a cosmetics safety database which pairs ingredients in over 41,000 products against 50 toxicity and regulatory databases. The database is intended as a resource for consumers, who can search by ingredient or product when choosing personal care products.
2007 Farm Bill
EWG operates the farm subsidy database, an online searchable database of recipients of taxpayer funded agriculture subsidy payments. The information is obtained directly from the United States Department of Agriculture via Freedom of Information Act requests.
During the fall 2007 debate over the farm bill EWG produced computer generated Google maps of cities across the country identifying the number of federal farm subsidy checks sent to that area. Acting-Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner used the maps during speeches and with the media as he advocated for fundamental reforms to the farm subsidy programs.
Who owns the West?
EWG has used computer mapping tools to demonstrate the surge in mining claims near the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other national parks. The House of Representatives passed the first update of the nation’s hardrock mining law since 1872 in 2007. The bill, which bans mining claims around national parks and wilderness and imposes the first-ever royalties on minerals taken from public lands, awaits action in the Senate. EWG staff testified before both the House and Senate during consideration of mining reform.
Involvement in reprimand of John Stossel by ABC
A February 2000 story about organic vegetables on 20/20 included a comment by John Stossel that tests had shown that neither organic nor conventional produce samples contained any pesticide residue, and that organic food was more likely to be contaminated by E. coli bacteria. The Environmental Working Group took exception to his report, mainly questioning his statements about bacteria, but also found that the produce[which?] had never been tested for pesticides. EWG communicated this to Stossel but the story was rebroadcast months later not only with the inaccurate statement uncorrected, but with a postscript in which Stossel reiterated his error. After the New York Times took note of the error, ABC News suspended the producer of the segment for a month and reprimanded Stossel, who issued an apology over the incident, saying that he had thought the tests had been conducted as reported, but that he had been wrong. He asserted, however, that the gist of his report had been accurate.
Benzene in soft drinks
In 2006 EWG sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration contending that the agency knew about the presence of benzene in soft drinks and suppressed the information from the public. EWG described the finding of benzene in soft drinks as a “clear health threat.” A second letter in April 2006  reported that 80% of diet sodas tested from 1996 to 2001 in FDA’s Total Diet Study had benzene levels above the 5 ppb, including one at 55ppb and a regular cola at 138 ppb.
Finances and funding
For Fiscal Year ending December 2006, EWG raised nearly $3.6 million and spent $3.2 million. Over 84 cents out of every dollar go towards EWG’s actual programs. EWG’s IRS Form 990 is available on GuideStar[clarification needed]. As of March 2008, EWG reports 30 staff members with its president Ken Cook earning $192K per year in 2006.
Challenge to 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Status
On February 8, 2002, the Bellevue, WA based Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise filed a complaint with the IRS, claiming that the EWG’s “excessive lobbying and politicking” activities are “clearly illegal and should (at a minimum) result in revocation of the organization’s tax-exempt status.”