Arlene’s Update

Dear friends,

We hope you have had a good summer. California SB772 to stop the de facto requirement for flame retardants in baby products is struggling to make it through the California Assembly against the enormous lobbying of the same companies. if you want to help, please contact me or Kate at

Arlene’s update from China

Of the many hundreds of talks and posters about pollutants at the Dioxin 2009 meeting, about one third discussed flame retardant chemicals. Check out for a sobering view of the potential expansion of the use and sale of halogenated flame retardants in China being promoted by chemical producers at a huge expo Sept 21 to 25 in Shanghai.

Our Flame Retardant Dilemma meeting Beijing with speakers Linda Birnbaum, Susan Shaw, Tom Webster, and Eddy Zeng, went very well. The goal is to inform the Chinese about the dangers of going ahead with new ventures to produce and use halogenated chemicals such flame retardants. Lectures in both Chinese and English:
We will distribute a video in Chinese or English to reach and help inform a broad audience in China about the health impacts of flame retardants. In the afternoon, we had a small meeting where we came up with a potential collaboration between U.S. and Chinese scientists to study highly exposed populations in China.

Here’s what I wrote Annalise on the opening day,

Today was the opening ceremony for the big Dioxin2009 meeting with a dozen heart-felt welcome speeches, heralded with rolls of drums and nearly a thousand scientists, asserting Chinas commitment to working towards a POPs-free world (POPs are persistent organic pollutants)

A dynamic rock group sang to images of environmental devastation, burning, oil wells, deforestation, Michael Jackson dominated these scenes of mass destruction singing What about less? on the big screen along with indigenous folks from all over the world. Amazing

Adorable children put on a skit about protecting the earth:
“The earth is being poisoned by POPS. …. We have the best doctors in the world here in the audience. They will write a prescription to protect us. …Through the effort the scientists in this room, we will effectively remove POPs from the world. “

When the children in their lovely red and gold silk outfits joined hands and sang a rousing version of Its a small world after all, I found tears in my eyes.

Memorable talks documented the increasing levels of flame retardants and other POPS all over China especially in the Tibetan plateau. A heart breaking lecture showed very high levels of HBCD and FireMaster 550 components in porpoises and dolphins washed ashore dead in the Pearl River Delta. These are the so called emerging flame retardants, said to be better than the old.

So Chinese scientists do know about the flame retardant problem and that building more production plants isn’t good for the environment. But the Ministry of Commerce likely has more power than the Ministry of the Environment in China, not so different from the U.S.

Eddy Zeng, a noted Chinese chemist and environmentalist, and I had a press conference on the environment in China yesterday with thirty reporters present. I said that somehow the Chinese need to find the political will to stop the production of these toxic and unneeded chemicals, which we haven’t yet managed to do in the West.

I also gave a talk at the Dioxin meeting called
FLAME RETARDANTS, HEALTH, & ENVIRONMENT: How Science Can Impact Regulation
and spoke at the Western Academy of Beijing, the great venue where we had our meeting, and chaired a panel at Dioxin.

Now I’ve agreed to chair a section on chemicals and policy at a meeting in China in June and to speak in Japan in April. Sure hope this all will help.

Kind regards,


Arlene Blum PhD
Visiting Scholar, Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
Telephone: 510 644-3164           Mobile: 510 919-6363