December 2008 Newsletter

Dear friends,

Early holiday greetings. I just leaving to lead a trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our women’s expedition making the first American ascent of Annapurna I.

Chemical &Engineering News just published an article about our policy work on flame retardants

I am delighted that my current, and most important, expedition was recognized yesterday with a Purpose Prize of $100,000 during a three day long meeting at Stanford encouraging retiring Baby Boomers to begin second or “encore” careers solving society’s greatest problems
You can see the three-minute film about our work

Check out our new home page at where you can download our brand new Green Science Policy Institute Brochure, see our two U Tube videos as well as the Purpose Prize video, and contribute on line to the Green Science Policy Institute for a healthier world for us all.

The origins of our work of bringing unbiased science into policy decisions to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and protect human health, as well as my favorite mountain adventure stories, are in my memoir Breaking Trail. For a holiday gift, autographed copies of this award-winning book as well as Annapurna books, t-shirts, and videos are available at

I will be in Nepal from Dec. 12 – Jan. 1 where I should be able to check email and speak on Skype from time to time.

With a new president who believes in science, I feel great optimism for the New Year. We wish you and your family a safe and joyous holiday season and hope to see many of you in 2009.


2008 Purpose Prize
An Expedition to a Healthier World
Your Support Can Help Us To Create A Less Toxic World
How to Reduce the Toxics in Your Home
The Fire Retardant Dilemma At UC Berkeley January 30, 2009
Ladakh Geology Trek and Adventure June 15 to July 9, 2009
An Autographed Copy of “Breaking Trail” or Annapurna for a Holiday Gift
How To Prevent a Cocoon Of Chemicals
Annalise’s Gap Year Web Site
26th Annual Berkeley Himalayan Fair May 16-17, 2009 at Live Oak Park in Berkeley

I am so happy that our work to reduce toxic chemicals was recognized with a Purpose Prize. Civic Ventures awards six $100,000 Purpose Prizes each year to individuals over 60 who are making a lasting change in the world by tackling some of society’s most important challenges.

You can visit their website at to read more about the Purpose Prize and can see the film they made about my work at .

The Purpose Prize comes at a perfect time for the Green Science Policy Institute. It will bring our work to the attention of a greater public and help us move to a new level in launching our organization to bring more unbiased science into policy decisions.

My enormous thanks to so many of you who have contributed to our work to protect human health and the global environment.

This year colleagues and I launched the Green Science Policy Institute to protect health and environment by reducing toxic chemicals in consumer products. Current projects include

  • encouraging scientists to become more involved in policy outcomes of their research
  • adding health and environmental considerations to California legislation for bed clothing, furniture and children’s products
  • responsible end-of-life solutions for materials treated with toxics
  • reducing toxics in building materials
  • coordinating with toxic reduction efforts in Beijing and Brussels

Many people believe that chemicals in household products have been fully tested for their long term effects on human health and the environment. This is not true. Toxic chemicals in consumer products and other environmental factors are believed to cause as much as 80% of cancer, birth defects, autism, hyperactivity, thyroid and reproductive conditions. Levels of toxics, especially fire retardant chemicals, are rapidly increasing in wild animals, our pets, ourselves, and our children.

This toxics problem can be solved with scientific information and political will. During the last two years I have worked with distinguished scientists, citizens groups, progressive industry representatives, and policy makers in Sacramento, Washington, Brussels, and Beijing. I am so grateful that our collective efforts have been successful in stopping the unnecessary use of billions of pounds of toxic chemicals, many of which would have persisted in humans and the environment for decades.

If you are planning to make end-of-year charitable donations, please consider helping launch the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP). Your gift is essential for our work to reduce toxic chemicals and protect human and animal health and the global environment. Please email or call us at 510-644-3164 if you’d like to learn more about our work and how you can help.

You can make a tax-deductible contribution by mail, e-mail or through the SEE* website. By mail, you can send a check (payable to SEE/GSP*) and your contact information to Green Science Policy Institute, P.O. Box 5455, Berkeley, CA 94705
By e-mail using a credit card*:
Send your contact information to along with the amount of your donation and the credit card number and expiration date.
On-line through SEE* secure website:
Visit and fill out the form. For Project Name enter Green Science Policy Institute

*The fiscal sponsor for the Green Science Policy Institute (GSP) is Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), a 501(c) (3) non-profit. If you donate by credit card, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, or a variation of SEE, will show up on your statement.
All contributions over $50 will receive a letter from SEE that can be used for tax purposes.

Your gift can help us to add bright postdoctoral researchers and a policy expert to our team; as well as motivate and fund scientific research and public information campaigns to reduce toxics in consumer products and building materials.

For hints on how to reduce toxic fire retardant chemicals in you home and dust go to

Avoid antibacterial soap and other products containing Triclocarban and Triclosan two antimicrobials linked to liver toxicity and thyroid disruption. Household use of antibacterial products provides no benefit over plain soap and water. Colgate Total Toothpaste, most liquid and some bar soaps, etc, contain Triclosan. You can find Triclosan on the labels.

Check out Environmental Working Groups Cosmetics Database Skin Deep to pick personal care products without toxics

See more of the Environmental Working Groups advice to reduce toxics in your home at

You are invited to attend:
The Fire Retardant Dilemma Sessions VI: Health and Chemical Policy
When: Friday, January 30, 8:30am to 3:30pm
Where: 150 University Hall, 2199 Addison Street, UC Berkeley (Oxford and Addison). To attend, RSVP with contact info:
Please note we are expanding requesting a contribution of $20 per person to cover lunch, continental breakfast, snacks, etc.
Past presentations at:
Next sessions: May 8, 2009

Tom Webster, D.Sc., Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Dept. Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
Exposure to PBDEs: From Product to Person
Jerker Ligthart, International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), Sweden
ChemSec, the SIN (Substitute It Now) List and how to eliminate hazardous substances including brominated and chlorinated fire retardants
Sarah Janssen, PhD, MD, MPH, Natural Resources Defense Council
Exposure to and Health Effects of Halogenated Fire Retardants
Tim Elgren, Phd, Professor of Chemistry, Hamilton College
Chemical Fire Retardants: A Case Study for Undergraduates

Proposed Panel Discussions:
1: How to obtain human heath information on fire retardants
2: How can NGOs and scientists work together to reduce the unnecessary use of halogenated fire retardants in consumer products.
3: Encouraging the chemical industry to develop a new future vision for the common good including heath and environmental impacts of their products

You are invited to join world famous geophysicist Tanya Atwater and me on an adventurous 15-day trek in Ladakh amidst ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, flat-topped mud-brick houses in oasis-like villages, and snow-capped mountains.

Hugh Swift and I crossed the Ladakh Himalaya 25 years ago to end our traverse of the Great Himalaya Range. After seeing the photos, Tanya has wanted to go to Ladakh with me ever since. Beginning at the Lamayuru monastery where Hugh and I concluded our ten- month-long trek in June of 1982, we will walk up the remote Ripchar valley, cross the Zanskar River by way of a trolley box and trek into the Markha valley with giant rock pinnacles, narrow defiles, prayer-flagged passes and the ruins of forts and castles.

For your holiday reading or a gift, consider a copy the revised paperback edition of “Breaking Trail” with additional photos and text. It’s $14 with a personal autograph.
or from your independent bookstore.

You also can read reviews or purchase Breaking Trail at at

Annapurna t-shirts, videos, books and Himalayan language courses are also available at

Please order by December 15 for delivery by Christmas.

A proposed bed clothing flammability standard, moving rapidly towards adoption in California, would lead to potentially toxic fire retardant materials in all pillows, comforters, mattress pads and other filled bed clothing sold in the state. The new standard, (TB 604) drafted by the California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation, does not consider human health or the environment.

This standard provides a very small potential fire safety benefit of slowing a fire by seconds or minutes compared to a large likely negative impact on human health and the environment. Should pregnant women and children have unknown fire retardant chemicals in their beds?

Your input could make a difference. Please write or fax as below to say how you feel about this poison pillow standard.

Contact information for the Governor, Rosario Marin, and BHFTI:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-558-3160
Email at this web form address:

Rosario Marin, Secretary
State and Consumer Services Agency
915 Capitol Mall, Suite 200

Rick Fong
Acting Chief
Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation
Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair
Department of Consumer Affairs
3485 Orange Grove Ave, Suite A. N. Highlands, CA 95660
Work: (916) 574-0202
Faxed or mailed letters have the greatest impact, but email and calls are good too.]

Some things to say:

Some ideas for things to say are on the GSP website
in my recent LA Times oped and below.,0,6525043.story

PentaBDE, primarily used to meet the California furniture standard, is now a global contaminant that is likely to be a problem for our grandchildren. We need strong state and national legislation banning the use of pentaBDE and other toxic chemicals in consumer products in the U.S. We must have health and environmental toxicity information before adding fire retardant chemicals to our beds or our furniture.

Tell Governor Schwarzenegger, Rosario Marin, and also the Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation the to stop the poisoning of our homes. They must suspend Technical Bulletin 117 (the flammability standard for furniture and baby products) and Technical Bulletin 604 (the standard for pillows and comforters) until fire retardants used in furniture and baby products are proven safe for our kids, our pets, and the environment.

Annalise has made a gap year website to help students who want to take time off at
The site has profiles of successful gap years and resources for volunteering internationally.  If you can recommend good programs, or know someone who has taken a gap year and would like to write for the site, you can email Annalise at

After many years of good work culminating in the 25th annual fair, the Himalayan Fair Committee resigned, and assumed this would end the event.  However, we have found an outstanding new fair committee and, to our delight, the Himalayan Fair will go on.

This festive re-creation of a Himalayan bazaar features the food, music, crafts and dances of the Himalayas.  All of the fair’s profits go directly to the Himalayan regions as donations to orphanages, medical clinics, schools, village water supplies and agricultural and child nutrition projects and other Himalayan charities. I describe starting the Himalayan Fair after returning from the ten month long Great Himalayan Traverse in Chapter 23 of my memoir “Breaking Trail.”

For more information, contact Chandran Param at
or 510-869-3995 or visit the Himalayan Fair website at

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
Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
Telephone: 510 644-3164           Mobile: 510 919-6363

Elana Fishman
Green Science Policy Institute
Phone:  510-644-3164
Mobile: 818-468-5931