August 2009 Newsletter

Dear all,

How is your summer going? Both Annalise and I are having challenging learning experiences this summer. She is in Ecuador doing research on potable water systems
for her senior thesis and is meanwhile learning to live without running water, withstand conversion to Evangelical Christianity, and be the honored guest at a hand-washing festival. (Let us know if are not yet receiving her hilarious updates and would like to.)

The Green Science Policy Institute is bringing manufacturers who use chemicals, NGOs, scientists, and regulators together to work for chemical policy reform — not an easy process. We are also providing scientific support for SB772, the California bill to remove toxic fire retardant chemicals from baby products which is encountering extraordinary resistance from the chemical industry. Information on how to support this important legislation is at the end of this message.

We are putting on Fire Retardant Dilemma meetings in Beijing on August 22 and in Berkeley on September 25 with the goal of reducing the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products. I’ve been learning about links between chemicals, obesity, and diabetes, yet another reason to move towards sensible chemical policy to protect our health.

My downstairs in-law apartment will be available for rent August 15 as below. Finally, please consider faxing your support for stopping the use of toxic and unneeded fire retardant chemicals in baby products as described below.

Happy summer,

Fire Retardant Dilemma in Beijing on August 22nd
Fire Retardant Dilemma in California on September 25th
California SB772 to Remove Toxics from Baby Products passes Assembly Committees
New research suggests that toxic chemicals contribute to diabetes and obesity.
Upcoming Lectures & Events
Downstairs Studio Apartment available August 15
Reviews for Breaking Trail
Please fax your Assembly Member and the Governor in Support of SB772

I’m delighted to be co-chairing the session, “BFRs, PFCs and other POPs: Public Health and Exposure” at the Dioxin 2009 meeting in Beijing, August 23 to 29.

The Green Science Policy is hosting its first Fire Retardant Dilemma Symposium in Beijing on August 22nd 8:30am-12:00pm, the day before Dioxin 2009. The meeting will bring together leading scientists as well as users of chemicals.

Speakers will include:
Arlene Blum, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley. The Fire Retardant Dilemma and How Research in China Can Protect Human Health and the Global Environment

Linda Birnbaum, PhD, DABT, ATS, Director, U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) An Overview of Halogenated Fire Retardant Research

Susan Shaw, DrPH, Director, Marine Environmental Research Institute A Comparison Of Fire Retardant Levels And Known Health Effects in Wildlife and Humans

Eddy Zeng, PhD, Director of the Institute of Geochemistry, Guangzhou, China
A big picture view of fire retardant and other halogenated chemical exposures in China

Tom Webster, DSc, Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health Exposure to PBDEs: From Product to Person, How to Measure Human Exposure to Persistent Halogenated Chemicals

Registration is free and open to the public, please e-mail for information or to register. Please pass this information on.

You are invited to attend:
The Fire Retardant Dilemma Session IX
When: Friday, September 25, 8:30am to 4:00pm
Where: 150 University Hall, 2199 Addison Street, UC Berkeley (Oxford and Addison). To attend, RSVP with contact info:
View past presentations at:

This symposium series brings together contributors from industry, government, academia, and citizens’ groups to share information and research results about how to protect human and environmental health by reducing toxics in consumer products This session will feature talks on human health effects and an author panel including:

Asa Bradman, PhD, MS, Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research
School of Public Health/UC Berkeley, Human health effects from exposure to PBDEs

Mark Schapiro, author of EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power

Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health

Joyce Egginton (invited), author of The Poisoning of Michigan – to be reissued by Michigan State University Press, Aug. 2009

California Senate Bill 772, Mark Leno’s newly proposed California legislation to end a flammability requirement that has led to the use of toxic or untested fire retardants in baby products containing foam, passed the state senate — with five Republicans voting for it and two committees in the Assembly. Currently across the U.S., most nursing pillows, high chairs, strollers, changing pads, etc are treated with fire retardant chemicals to meet TB117, the California furniture and juvenile product flammability standard. There is no data showing these products pose a fire hazard.

The opposition from the chemical industry is getting more and more extreme as you can see if you go to 2 hours 18 minutes in the televised hearing below.

Information on how to contact your Assembly Member and the Governor in support of this important legislation is at the end of this message.

New research suggests that environmental contaminants may contribute to the development of diabetes and obesity. For example, a study of more than 2,000 adults, conducted by the U.S. CDC, that found people with the highest levels of six pollutants were 38 times more likely to have diabetes than those with the lowest exposure.

A new paper suggests that environmental exposure to the pesticide Atrazine might be an important contributing factor to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Atrazine damages mitochondrial function, affects insulin signaling, and induces insulin resistance and obesity, especially when exposure is associated with a high-fat diet. Atrazine or its metabolites might be introduced into humans through corn syrup and other corn-derived foods.

Email us if you would like more information or to receive occasional updates on the science and policy of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals.

August 22, 2009, 8:30 am-12pm
The Fire Retardant Dilemma in China: Fire safety, human health, and the environment
Beijing, China
Half day workshop, Register by August 10 to

August 23-29, 2009
“BFRs, PFCs and other POPs: public health and exposure”
29th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants
(Dioxin 2009)
Beijing International Convention Center (BICC), Beijing, China
For more information visit

** September 15, 2009, 11:30-1pm
Golden Girlfriends talk
UCB Faculty Club, Berkeley, CA

September 25, 2009, 8am-4pm
Green Science Policy Symposium
The Fire Retardant Dilemma: Part IX
150 University Hall, UC Berkeley
To register or for more information
To RSVP, send your name, position, and email contact: or 510 644 3164

** September 30, 2009
Fire Retardants and their Impact on Fire Fighters Health
Gaithersburg, Maryland
NIST Campus

October 14, 2009,
Women’s faculty lecture and keynote
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA
Contact Lisa N. Gentile, (

October 15, 2009,
Environmental Sciences seminar program
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Contact Cassandra L. Fraser (

** October 16, 2009, 9am
Keynote for Appalachian College Association
Abbington, Virginia

** October 19, 2009, 11:30 – 1pm
Hamilton College Chemistry Department Lecture
Clinton, NY

October 29, 2009, 11:30-1pm
Keynote for Girls Inc
San Francisco Palace Hotel

(**This talk is not open to the public)

Sunny two room studio apartment in quiet woodsy neighborhood in North Berkeley Hills, with garden, fenced yard, off-street parking, near Tilden Park, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and shuttle service to UC Berkeley.
Private entrance. Small kitchen with gas stove, refrigerator. Full bathroom. Share washer and dryer with owner. Separate phone line. Wireless DSL. About 400 square feet. Looking for a responsible non-smoking tenant. Dogs are not allowed. Cats negotiable.
$900 monthly rent plus share utilities (Utilities are about $50 in the summer and $100 in the winter)
Deposit is 500 plus last months rent. Available August 15. One year lease.

From a recent message about Breaking Trail, “I just finished reading Breaking Trail and have to say it is one of the best books I’ve ever read ….The author’s honesty made the book a must read for me and will highly recommend this book to others.”

And here’s the review from Alison Osius, the first woman president of the American Alpine Club about Breaking Trail:

If you would like to see a series of photo-adventure albums, (dramatic color slide shows with text) to accompany Breaking Trail or to order an autographed copy go to

Please fax letters to your Assembly Representative and the Governor in support of Mark Leno and Friends of the Earth’s SB772, which will stop the use of toxic flame retardants in the polyurethane foam in strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and bassinets.

Faxing personal messages is the recommended way to contact them.

For your assembly person: and enter your zip code.
For their fax: Click on the name and scroll to the bottom for their Fax number.

The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
FAX # 916-558-3160
In order of priority:

1) Bismarck Obando – External Affairs Secretary: fax #916-324-6358
2) Susan Kennedy, Chief of Staff: fax #916-323-9991
3) Dan Dunmoyer, Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff: fax #916-323-0918
4) Matt David, Director of Communications: fax #916-324-6357
5) Linda Adams, Secretary CalEPA: fax #916-324-0908
6) Maziar Movassaghi, Department of Toxic Substances Control: fax #916-324-3158

Here is a sample letter to fax and some talking points to add to make your own letter.

The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

ATTN: Bismarck Obando, External Affairs Secretary

Re: SB 772 – SUPPORT

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

I am writing to register my strong support of Senate Bill 772. This legislation will end the de facto requirement that certain juvenile products contain fire retardants of questionable safety.

Chemical fire retardants should only be used where there is an established need. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission found there was no evidence that the juvenile products covered by SB772 are associated with the risk of fire. Preventive measures such as smoke detectors, sprinkler systems and self-extinguishing cigarettes are more effective in reducing injuries and death from fire than fire retardant chemicals. Effective preventive measures should be the emphasized over fire retardant chemicals whose safety is uncertain.

California’s Technical Bulletin 117 requires that when foam in upholstered furniture is exposed to an open flame it will resist burning for 12 seconds. The halogenated fire retardants commonly used to meet this standard are either known toxins or are untested for safety. Many of these chemicals have been linked to public health concerns, including cancer, neurological and reproductive impairments, birth defects, thyroid disruption, and learning disorders. Many halogenated fire retardants are persistent, bio-accumulative, and are found in increasing levels in wildlife and people with developing fetuses and young children being the most vulnerable. Modifying TB117 to exempt strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and bassinets will protect the health of our children, the general public, and the environment.

Please allow California parents to choose foam-containing products they know to be safe for their children. For these and other reasons, I strongly support SB 772 and urge you to support and sign this important legislation.


Talking points for SB772

Support SB772 which will stop the de facto requirement that the foam in juvenile products such as portable cribs, bassinets, strollers, playpens, swings, nursing pillows, high chairs and toddler chairs be treated with toxic chemicals

· The current California flammability standard (TB117) for Juvenile products DOES NOT REDUCE fire deaths

o Children’s products such as strollers and changing pads do not pose a fire hazard.

o Fire retardant chemicals don’t stop fires; they slow them for an estimated six to twelve seconds. Other strategies such as smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, fire safe cigarettes and candles, are proven to reduce fire deaths.

o TB117 has been in effect in California since 1980, and has not been shown to reduce fire deaths in California

§ According the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there is no evidence that these toxic chemicals actually reduce fire deaths in California. Fire deaths declined by 38% in California from 1980 to 1999; but the decline was even greater in other states that don’t have standards leading to the use of these toxic chemicals.
If there is not data to show whether adding toxic chemicals to the foam in baby products reduced fire deaths, why do it? Especially since…
• The flame retardant chemicals used in juvenile products to meet TB117 end up in our children

o Pounds of these chemicals are found in our baby products and furniture. They leak out into dust, pets, humans, and the environment.

o Californians have the highest body burdens in the world of pentaBDE, a potent endocrine disrupting toxic chemical

o Our babies are born with these chemicals in their bodies and get a further dose from their mother’s milk and exposure to baby products.

o Toddlers have three times the level of their mothers.
• These chemicals are likely harmful to human health
o The chemical industry is not required to do any health studies before introducing these chemicals into our homes.
o In animal studies in multiples species these chemicals cause cancer, neurological impairments like hyperactivity, reproductive problems like lower sperm count, microtestes, thyroid problems, and endocrine disruption.
o One toxic chemical family is halfway in structure between PCBs and dioxins.
• The chemical industry has a large lobbying effort to continue this profitable business with no regard for the impact on our children’s health and the environment.
• We are taking tremendous risks with our children, ourselves and our environment for no measurable benefit in fire protection.

Please contact us if you would like your name to be taken off this e-mail list or would like more information about the Green Science Policy Institute or Arlene Blum’s leadership and sustainability lectures or workshops

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