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EWG Public Affairs, (202) 667-6982
In the first nationwide investigation
Laboratory tests - conducted in collaboration with Dr. Ake Bergman, a preeminent environmental chemist - found that in 19 of 20 U.S. families, concentrations of the toxic chemicals known as PBDEs were significantly higher in 1- to 4-year-old children than in their mothers. The tests found the fire retardant Deca, banned in Europe but unregulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more often and in higher amounts in U.S. children than their mothers.
In 2003 EWG published test results showing that the average level of fire-retardants in breast milk from 20 American moms was 75 times higher than the average levels measured in Europe. This study confirms that same high exposure in American children.
"U.S. chemical law leaves children unprotected from toxic chemicals that other industrialized countries long ago banned," said Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst at EWG and co-author of the study. "It's time for real, comprehensive reform that puts the health of children first," Lunder added.
The average levels of PBDEs in the blood of children tested by EWG were about 62 parts per billion, compared to 25 ppb in their mothers. In the limited number of studies of this age group in other countries, Spanish and Norwegian children had levels 6 to 13 times lower. Australian children have roughly equal levels.
Toxic fire retardants in everyday items like furniture, sofas, televisions and computers could expose children to concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recommended safe level. Children ingest more fire retardants and other toxins when they put their hands, toys and other objects in their mouths.
Children's developing brains and reproductive systems are extraordinarily vulnerable to toxic chemicals. In the case of PBDEs, laboratory tests in peer-reviewed studies have found that a single dose administered to mice on a day when the brain is growing rapidly can cause permanent changes to behavior, including hyperactivity.
"It's well documented that U.S. adults are more exposed to chemical fire retardants than adults in other countries, but these findings show that young children are at even higher risk," said Anila Jacob, MD, EWG senior scientist and study co-author. "Parents want to protect their children, but once they are old enough to crawl or walk, they are more vulnerable to exposure to these and other toxic chemicals."
"These chemicals are everywhere - in food, in our homes and schools," said Laurie Yung of Missoula, Mont., who was tested along with her 3-year-old son, Conner. "We need laws to protect us from exposure not only to these chemicals, but that will make sure chemicals are safe for kids before they're allowed on the market."
"I am extremely disturbed to see children have higher exposures than their mothers, especially at a time that they are more vulnerable to the toxic effects," said Dr. Ake Bergman.
Other moms and kids in the study were from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C.
Even as the chemical industry insists Deca is safe, the European Union has banned it from use, 10 U.S. states are considering or have enacted legislative bans, and major electronics manufacturers including Nokia, Sony-Ericsson and Samsung no longer use Deca and are phasing-out other bromine-based fire retardants.
NOTE: Moms and kids who participated in the study were from California, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C. Mothers are available for comment, as are leading U.S. and international scientists.
The Environmental Working Group is a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.(202) 667-6982
"This isn't just a talking point; it's a real issue for people we work with every day," wrote Sarah Drory. "Restricting abortion—and creating a culture where people can't speak up about their experiences—hurts everyone."
Sarah Drory, Congressman Ro Khanna's deputy communications director, had an abortion—and with that healthcare under threat and widely stigmatized, she chose to share her story with the world.
"I was grateful to have the option to take the abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, at home—a way to make this painful experience more bearable," Drory wrote Thursday for Elle. "I desperately wanted support, but I was worried about how it would be perceived."
"Of all places, I never thought I would bring it up at work," the California Democrat's staffer continued, noting that "on Capitol Hill, it often feels like there is immense pressure to be professional—and even perfect," and "I am also painfully aware of the stigma that exists around abortion."
As Drory detailed:
I watch day after day as Republican lawmakers, with whom I share elevators and hallways, attack abortion rights on social media, cable news, and in floor speeches. Even lawmakers who support abortion typically only bring it up in the context of policy; I rarely hear it talked about from a personal perspective among staff or members of Congress. And when they are talking about policy, it's common for politicians—including Democrats—to use euphemisms like 'reproductive rights' and 'women's healthcare,' which only adds to the stigma and the shame. Because of this environment, it felt like there wasn't space for me to share my experience with other staffers or even friends at work.
Since the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organizationruling leaked last May, a growing number of people in politics have spoken about their abortions. On Roe v. Wade's 50th anniversary in January, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)—who shared her abortion story just before Dobbs—said that "the chaos we've seen over the past six months is the environment anti-abortion politicians have worked for decades to create, and they won't stop with Roe."
The high court's Roe reversal has further emboldened right-wing activists and politicians, who are trying to use the legal system to cut off access to mifepristone nationwide and have passed state-level bans that physicians warn endanger patients' lives.
"Once I saw these restrictions, the toll on my mental health was overwhelming," Drory explained. "Physically and emotionally recovering from my abortion was difficult on its own, but being plugged into the news at work nearly every day was a scary reminder that access to abortion for me and millions of others could be threatened at any moment."
\u201cThis is an amazing piece in @ELLEmagazine by @sarah_drory on having an abortion while working in Congress and the wonderful support her boss, @RoKhanna, and colleagues offered her.\n\nThank you for sharing your story, Sarah!\nhttps://t.co/sdEyaBIbOw\u201d— Renee Bracey Sherman (@Renee Bracey Sherman) 1685103703
"So, I decided to tell my boss, Congressman Khanna. The congressman and my colleagues were nothing but supportive and empathetic, and it made me wish I had spoken up sooner and leaned on people around me for support," she wrote. "I'm fortunate to work for a member of Congress who not only cares deeply about our well-being but also offers generous sick leave, mental health days, and flex time for therapy appointments."
Drory—who also does communications work for the Congressional Workers Union—stressed that "I shared my story, because it's essential that, across Congress, we figure out ways to support our colleagues who have had abortions or are more generally struggling with their mental health."
"As congressional staff and members of Congress continue to help shape the national conversation around abortion, it's important to remember that this isn't just a talking point; it's a real issue for people we work with every day," she concluded. "Restricting abortion—and creating a culture where people can’t speak up about their experiences—hurts everyone. Building a nation that trusts people to choose their own healthcare—and supports them in telling their stories—is how we start to heal."
Khanna—who has received 100% ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPFA) for his voting record—was among those who thanked Drory for her essay in Elle.
\u201cI\u2019m so grateful to work in an office where these conversations are possible.\n\nThanks to @_madisonline and @ELLEmagazine for helping me share my story.\u201d— Sarah Drory (@Sarah Drory) 1685049582
U.S. Senate Budget Committee researcher Aria Kovalovich wrote: "Thanks to my friend and former colleague... for sharing her story. Abortion isn't just a talking point; it's personal. Managers can tackle the stigma that makes it difficult to talk about mental health in Congress."
PPFA president Alexis McGill Johnson said she was "endlessly grateful to Sarah Drory for her bravery in sharing her abortion story," and that "everyone deserves a workplace... as supportive and empathetic as Rep. Ro Khanna's."
"Further evidence that this was never about the debt. It's about squeezing families to protect billionaires."
Republican negotiators are reportedly close to securing as much as $10 billion in cuts to recently approved Internal Revenue Service funding as part of a debt ceiling deal with the White House, a development that critics said further shows the GOP's ironclad commitment to shielding wealthy tax cheats as the party targets spending on aid programs for poor families.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted last month that cutting the $80 billion IRS funding boost that Democratic lawmakers approved as part of the Inflation Reduction Act would add to the federal budget deficit by constraining the agency's ability to audit the tax returns of rich individuals and corporations.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued Thursday that the Republican push for IRS funding cuts—which the Biden White House appears poised to accept as part of a broader agreement to raise the debt limit for two years—shows that the GOP is only "pretending to care about the deficit."
"Republicans are using the debt ceiling to hold the economy hostage," Warren wrote on Twitter. "One of their hostage demands? Cutting funding for the IRS to track down the hidden cash of wealthy tax cheats—funding that will raise as much as $1 trillion. Terrible idea."
Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, echoed Warren, writing that "cutting [money] for the IRS is, simply, enabling tax cheating by the super-rich and corporations."
"That's the Republicans' top priority," Weissman added.
\u201cThe GOP is proposing cuts to IRS in #debtceiling talks.\n\nThis would allow billionaires to evade their taxes, which, wait for it\u2026ADDS to the deficit. \n\nFurther evidence that this was never abt the debt. Its about squeezing families to protect billionaires.\nhttps://t.co/qHw9Ka1umG\u201d— Melissa Boteach (@Melissa Boteach) 1685053140
The New York Timesreported Thursday that the Biden White House and Republican negotiators are currently discussing a deal under which "the IRS money would essentially shift to nondefense discretionary spending, allowing Democrats to avoid further cuts in programs like education and environmental protection."
The White House reportedly believes such a shift and other unspecified "budgetary maneuvers" could help lessen the pain of a two-year spending cap that Biden administration officials are negotiating with Republicans, who have demanded massive cuts to aid programs that help low-income Americans afford food, housing, and healthcare.
According toThe Washington Post, "negotiators agreed to slightly decrease spending on these domestic programs—giving House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) a key victory—while redirecting money from other parts of the federal budget, such as the IRS funding, which would effectively keep domestic spending flat for next year."
"Spending on veterans and the military will rise in line with the increases sought by the president's budget," the Post reported.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, rejected the notion that the spending cuts outlined in the latest reporting on the debt ceiling talks would be "modest."
"Any deal is a disaster since most government departments and agencies are currently severely underfunded," Hauser said in a statement. "'Non-defense discretionary spending' is a bloodless way to refer to the agencies required to ensure clean air, safe food, safe workplaces, and protect Americans from all forms of corporate abuse."
Hauser stressed that even if the White House is able to prevent domestic spending levels from falling below this year's levels, "it's likely that inflation will undercut the budget's actual spending power by 7-10%."
"Democrats should stand strong and tell Republicans that they refuse to make it easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes."
No deal has been finalized, and key issues—including the GOP push to attach new work requirements to aid programs—have yet to be resolved.
But outside progressives are raising serious concerns about the details of the emerging agreement, including the spending caps, the insertion of permitting reforms craved by the oil and gas industry, and the IRS funding cuts.
"It would be absurd and counterproductive for President Biden to give in to GOP demands to weaken the IRS' ability to catch wealthy tax cheats and prevent corporate tax fraud," said Igor Volsky, the executive director of Groundwork Action. "Republicans have made it clear that they aren't actually focused on the deficit and debt or they wouldn't have rejected raising revenue by closing tax loopholes used by the wealthy and well-connected."
"But to be clear: Weakening the IRS' ability to go after rich tax cheats would actually increase the deficit and push the burden onto the backs of workers and families," Volsky continued. "Democrats should stand strong and tell Republicans that they refuse to make it easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes."
"What should be off the table are children in America, where we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country."
Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, toldCNN's Anderson Cooper that Republicans have engaged in "an outrageous display of extremist politics" by "holding hostage the entire world economy unless they get what they want."
"Right now in America, you got a middle class which is shrinking, you got 60% of our people living paycheck-to-paycheck, childcare system in disarray, healthcare system collapsing, housing—all over the country people can't afford housing," Sanders said. "You don't cut programs that working people desperately need."
The senator appeared on the network shortly after The New York Timesreported that top White House officials and GOP lawmakers were nearing an agreement that would cut non-military discretionary spending or keep it roughly at this year's levels—a real-term cut when accounting for inflation.
Under the emerging deal, the debt ceiling would be raised for two years, temporarily preventing an economy-wrecking default.
According to the Times, the deal would "roll back $10 billion of the $80 billion Congress approved last year for an IRS crackdown on high earners and corporations that evade taxes, though that provision was still under discussion."
"As the deal stood on Thursday, the IRS money would essentially shift to nondefense discretionary spending, allowing Democrats to avoid further cuts in programs like education and environmental protection, according to people familiar with the pending agreement," the Times reported. "The plan had yet to be finalized, and the bargainers continued to haggle over crucial details that could make or break any deal."
\u201cCutting $ for the IRS is, simply, enabling tax cheating by the super rich and corporations.\n\nThat\u2019s the Republicans\u2019 top priority. https://t.co/fADMVIk1My\u201d— Robert Weissman (@Robert Weissman) 1685058621
Sanders told Cooper on Thursday that all he knows of the possible deal is what he read in the Times, and that "it may be right, it may be wrong."
The senator stressed that "there are ways that you can cut government spending without doing it on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country" and slammed Republicans for stonewalling efforts to raise taxes on the wealthy, rein in out-of-control military spending, and slash prescription drug costs.
"It's not good enough for them to say, 'Oh, we get huge campaign contributions from billionaires, we don't want to tax them. Oh, we love the military-industrial complex, we don't want to cut military spending. Off the table,'" Sanders said. "Well, it's not off the table. What should be off the table are children in America, where we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country. That should be off the table. The needs of elderly people who are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs—that should be off the table."
Asked about his call for President Joe Biden to consider invoking the 14th Amendment to avert a catastrophic default, Sanders said such a move would easily be preferable to "the Republican approach" of "massive cuts for the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor."
"If the Republicans are prepared to hold the entire world economy hostage and say, 'Hey Mr. President, you've got no alternative but to make massive cuts to programs for vulnerable people—you have no alternative.' Well, the president does have an alternative."
Sanders added that allowing Republicans to "get away with holding the economy hostage" would set "a precedent for years to come."
"GOP wants to add bureaucratic red tape to make it even harder for people who are hungry to get food assistance."
It's still far from clear that Republicans and the White House will strike a debt ceiling agreement before June 1, the day the Treasury Department says the government could run out of money to pay its obligations. A number of key disputes remain, including the GOP push for work requirements for aid programs—an effort that has drawn strong pushback from progressives.
"GOP wants to add bureaucratic red tape to make it even harder for people who are hungry to get food assistance that averages only about $6/day. Really?" Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Thursday. "None of this saves any money. It's just cruel. POTUS must reject these demands in any negotiation."
It's also not certain that any eventual deal can gain enough support to get through Congress, with far-right Republicans threatening to tank an agreement that doesn't enact sufficiently steep federal spending cuts.
House Democrats, too, are reportedly unhappy with the emerging outlines of the deal.
According toPunchbowl, the top three House Democrats—Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.)—warned the White House on Thursday that "it can't just assume 80 to 100 Democrats will back any Biden-McCarthy deal."
One unnamed Democratic aide told the outlet that the deal currently in the works is "'shitty enough' that Democrats don't feel compelled to back it and it's not good enough for the GOP to bring 200 Republicans on board."