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Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American activist group that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability. EWG is a non-profit organization (501(c)(3)).

Environmental Working Group
Environmental Working Group logo.png
Founded 1992 (26 years ago) (1992)
Type 501(c)(3)
Focus Environmentalism
  • Washington, D.C., USA

Founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles, EWG is headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States. A sister lobbying organization, the EWG Action Fund (a 501(c)(4) organization) was founded in 2002.[1]

The accuracy of some claims made by EWG have been criticized by the scientific community and others.


Issue areas and projectsEdit

Agrochemicals and human healthEdit

EWG has created a cosmetics database which indexes and scores products based on EWA's views of their ingredients. Their Guide to Pesticides in Produce lists 44 fruits and vegetables based on the number of pesticides that they were found to contain according to United States Department of Agriculture data. The organization has also constructed a national database of tap water testing results from public water utilities.[2][better source needed]


Dirty DozenEdit

The EWG publishes a "Dirty Dozen" list of foods with the highest pesticide residue, and recommends that consumers look for organically produced varieties of these products. In 2016, agroindustrially produced strawberries headed the list.[3]


In July 2008, the EWG first published an analysis of over 900 sunscreens. The report concluded that only 15% of the sunscreens met the group's criteria for safety and effectiveness.[4]

In 2009, EWG updated Skin Deep with a report on chemicals in sunscreen, lip balm and SPF lotions. The report states that 3 out of 5 sunscreen products offer inadequate protection from the sun, or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns. The report identifies only 17% of the products on the market as both safe and effective, blocking both UVA and UVB radiation, remaining stable in sunlight, and containing few if any ingredients with significant known or suspected health hazards.[5][medical citation needed] Oxybenzone is on the list and blocks both forms of radiation, but has been deemed unsafe by the EWG due to controversy over its potential estrogenic and anti-androgenic effects.[6][7][medical citation needed]

Involvement in reprimand of John Stossel by ABCEdit

A February 2000 story about organic vegetables on 20/20 included a comment by John Stossel that ABC News 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 had never been tested for pesticides. EWG communicated this to Stossel but the story was rebroadcast months later not only with the allegedly 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.[8][9][10]

Other projectsEdit

The EWG issues various product safety warnings. In 2004, the EWG raised concern over the approval by the Environmental Protection Agency of the herbicide under the trade name Enlist Duo, claiming that schools within the vicinity of farm fields may have children exposed to the herbicide. History professor James McWilliams has described these warnings as fear mongering and misleading, and wrote that there is little evidence to support the claims made by the EWG.[11]

Finances and fundingEdit

For the fiscal year ending December 2015, EWG raised nearly $13.7 million and spent $12.5 million.[12][13] Over 84 cents out of every dollar go toward EWG's program expenses.[13] As of March 2008, EWG reports 30 staff members with its president Ken Cook earning $289,022 in reportable income in 2015.[13]


Dirty dozenEdit

Critics of the list have suggested that it significantly overstates the risk to consumers of the listed items, and that the methodology employed in constructing the list "lacks scientific credibility".[14]

The list continues to be criticized as scare tactics and a 2011 study showed that all of the items on the list have safe levels of chemical residue or none at all.[15][14]

A 2011 analysis of the USDA's PDP data[16] by Steve Savage found that 99.33% of the detectable residues were below the EPA tolerance and fully 1/2 of the samples were more than 100 times below.[17]

Skin deepEdit

This database has had criticism directed towards it for having questionable validity and reliability; accusations of synthesis of information; and the classification of the compound polyparaben, which some allege does not exist.`[18]


Industry representatives called the 2008 sunscreen report inaccurate.[4] Personal Care Products Council general counsel Farah Ahmed said, "It is very clear to me that they have a very low level of understanding of the way sunscreens work and the way they are regulated by the FDA and tested by the industry." She expressed further concern, "I would hate to think that there are parents out there not using sunscreen on their kids because of a report like this that is not based on real science." Representatives from Schering-Plough (Coppertone), Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena), and Sun Pharmaceuticals Corp. (Banana Boat) also reiterated their products' safety and efficacy.[19]

Commenting on the 2010 sunscreen report, Dr. Zoe Draelos, of Duke University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology, said the group made unfair "sweeping generalizations" in its report and their recommendations were based on "very old technology."[20]


  1. ^ "About the Environmental Working Group". Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  2. ^ Mosko, Sarah. "Drinker Beware". E Magazine. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Boyles, Salynn (2 July 2008). "Many Sunscreens Ineffective, Group Says". WebMD. CBS News. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  5. ^ [better source needed]Miller, Michelle (2007-08-07). "Sunscreen: Don't Get Burned - Couric & Co". Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  6. ^ Centers for Disease Control. CDC: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical. Environmental Working Group. EWG, 25 Mar. 2008. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
  7. ^ Ma R, et al. UV filters with antagonistic action at androgen receptors in the MDA-kb2 cell transcriptional-activation assay. Toxicol Sci 2003; 74: 43–50.
  8. ^ Rutenberg, Jim (2000-07-31). "Report on Organic Foods Is Challenged". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  9. ^ Stossel, John (2000-08-11). "20/20: Stossel Apology for Organic Food Report". ABC News. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  10. ^ Rutenberg, Jim; Barringer, Felicity (2000-08-14). "MEDIA; Apology Highlights ABC Reporter's Contrarian Image". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "EWG 2015 Annual Report" (PDF). 2015-12-31. p. 12. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  13. ^ a b c "Charity Navigator Rating - Environmental Working Group". Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  14. ^ a b Winter, C. K.; Katz, J. M. (2011). "Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels". Journal of Toxicology. doi:10.1155/2011/589674. PMC 3135239. PMID 21776262.
  15. ^ "How Dirty Are Your Fruits and Veggies?". Center for Accountability in Science. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  16. ^ "PDP Databases and Annual Summaries". USDA. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  17. ^ Savage, S. "How Wrong Is The Latest "Dirty Dozen List?"". Biology Fortified. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  18. ^ Romanowski, P. "Why the EWG Skin Deep Database is Still a Dubious Source". Chemists Corner. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  19. ^ [1] WebMD article "Advocacy Group Says Many Popular Sunscreens Offer Inadequate Sun Protection"
  20. ^ "EWG Sunscreen Report Misleading, Skin Expert Says (Go Ahead, Slather It On)". The Huffington Post. 27 May 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2015.

External linksEdit