February 2016 Newsletter


I hope 2016 has started off well for you. Annalise, who is in graduate school in hydrology at Tufts, and I enjoyed a fun December holiday hiking in Guatemala. I’m planning hiking trips in Alaska from June 19 to 26 and in Burma over the December 2016 holidays. Contact me as soon as possible if you might be interested in joining me for either adventure.

We just had another excellent “Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyond” meeting. Now that flame retardants are no longer needed in our nation’s furniture, we are expanding our focus to other classes of harmful chemicals in everyday products, notably fluorinated stain and water repellants, about which it has been said “They are toxic. They are everywhere. And they never go away!” You can view Powerpoints from the meeting here.

Our current objective, the “Six Classes Challenge” is to work towards a 50% reduction in the use of some of these chemical classes in consumer products over the next five years. And we are well on our way. At last February’s meeting, a large retailer shared that they were phasing out the entire class of fluorinated chemicals from their products, and this year we learned that Kaiser Permanente and another large retailer who attended are meeting this challenge and similarly stopping the use of this entire class of chemicals. (The names of these retailers will be revealed in my editorial for the March 11, 2016 issue of Science.) This remarkable news shows the power of the Six Classes approach in reducing toxics for a healthier population and planet.

Our Institute is continuing to grow in terms of both our excellent scientists and financial resources. Please see below our announcement of two open positions to contribute to our Six Classes work. Thanks as always to our many friends for your invaluable friendship and support.

Kind regards,


We’re hiring for two new positions! Contribute to our Six Classes Work

The Green Science Policy Institute is hiring a Deputy Director to lead our Six Classes work as well as a Science and Policy Associate. Please learn more and consider applying here if you would like to work with us to reduce toxics and protect human health and the global environment.

Fireproof Fingernails? Common Flame Retardant Chemical Found in Nail Polish

recent study found that women might be absorbing a harmful chemical that has been used as a flame retardant into their bodies from their nail polish. Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) is used as a plasticizer to make nail polish flexible. It is also used as a flame retardant in furniture foam. TPHP was found in about half of the 3,000 nail polishes in EWG’s SkinDeep cosmetics database and has been linked to changes in hormones, metabolism, and the reproductive system. Researchers “detected evidence of…TPHP in the bodies of every woman who volunteered to paint her nails for the study.”

Photoelectric smoke alarms can be more effective

Are there batteries in your smoke detector?

Have you ever removed the batteries from your smoke detector because it annoyingly went off while you were cooking or showering, or for no apparent reason at all?

Good, functioning alarm systems can provide better protection from fires than flame retardants and do not expose us to hazardous chemicals.

Photoelectric smoke alarms  are a more effective alternative than the commonly-used ionization smoke alarms – they detect smoldering smoke and do not give false alarms as frequently.

Photoelectric alarms are now required in Massachusetts, and data shows that there has since been a decrease in fire deaths. It is important to routinely check your smoke alarms to verify that they are functioning. If you have disabled your smoke alarms because of frequent nuisance alarms, you might want to consider installing photoelectric alarms.

Teflon Toxin in the News

Callie Lyons, who spoke at our meeting last week, wrote Stain-resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8 in 2007. Remarkably little attention was paid to this dramatic story at that time. Callie shared with us that this had all changed beginning with the May 1, 2015 publication of the Madrid Statement which brought the extreme persistence and potential for harm of fluorinated chemicals to a broader audience. Here’s some outstanding journalism on the topic:

* Sharon Lerner’s compelling expose series, “The Teflon Toxin” tells the story of the pollution of the Ohio River Valley and about a jury awarding $1.6 million to a woman who developed kidney cancer after drinking C8-contaminated water.

* Rob Bilott “was a corporate defense lawyer for 8 years. But then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career – and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.” The New York Times Magazine lays out the legal, regulatory, and ethical issues around the production of fluorinated chemicals. Now, the chemical producer’s behavior and the resulting harm are being revealed.

The Big Idea is Changing the Dialogue

At the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), compelling witnesses from science, law, business, consumers, medicine and nursing, communities of color, firefighters, and Simona from our team spoke in support of our joint petition with EarthJustice and many others to stop the use of the entire class or family of additive organohalogen flame retardants in a variety of household products. This could prevent the current cycle of regrettable substitution of a toxic chemical with a chemical cousin. The petition was very well received and a decision is expected this year. You can listen to the testimony here.

Flickr CC BY 2.0 @Lake Clark National Park & Reserve

Turquoise Lake Hike and Kayak Adventure in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

June 16 to 26, 2016

Surrounded by 8,000-foot peaks to the east, and tundra to the west, Turquoise Lake is in the heart of spectacular Lake Clark National Park. This 7-day wilderness hiking adventure provides the opportunity to explore one of Alaska’s most beautiful watersheds; kayaking the turquoise waters, hiking to the edges of mighty glaciers, and exploring the hillsides searching for brown and black bear, moose, Dall’s sheep (likely), caribou, wolves, red foxes, and some of the over 180 bird species within the park. Wildflowers include abundant Mountain Avens, Forget-me-Nots, Arctic Lupine, Wild Iris, Alpine Azalea, Moss Campion, Wild Rose, & Scamman’s Spring. Having kayaks at Turquoise Lake will allow us to hike at both ends of the lake and enjoy paddles from our campsite. More information is here.

Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 @Kyle M Lease

Temples, Treks, and Tribes of Burma

Possible dates: December 15 -31, 2016

This will be my fourth trekking trip to Burma, one of my favorite countries. Emerging from decades of isolation, Burma is a traditional country with diverse tribal peoples, ancient monasteries, lively villages, and colorful markets. In Bagan, one of the richest archeological sites in Asia, we will explore for three days by car, bike, foot, and boat among 2,000 well-preserved temples from the 10th to 12th centuries. We will trek for four days from the hill station of Kalaw, sleeping in hospitable monasteries and long houses. After reaching lovely Inle Lake, we will be able to relax and visit floating gardens and markets before continuing to the tranquil beach at Ngapali for snorkeling or relaxing. We return to Yangon and the spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda. Please get in touch if you might like to join us.

Calendar of Upcoming Events

Arlene Blum and Malin Nasman of IKEA will present a tutorial on “The Chemical Class Approach Towards Healthier Products.” Register for the symposium here.
April 12 – 13, 2016: The Responsible Disposal of Flame Retarded Foam and Plastic
A by-invitation-only scientific symposium for identifying technologies and research priorities for the responsible management of waste foams and plastics mixed with flame retardants. This symposium will be held in Berkeley, CA. Contact veronica@GreenSciencePolicy.org for more information.
Arlene Blum will deliver a keynote speech for the Northwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Egan Civic and Convention Center, 555 West Fifth Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska. Register here.
Before the 2016 Dioxin symposium, leading scientists will share their expertise on the science and policy of organohalogens in consumer products. Topics will include flame retardants, fluorinated chemicals, and chlorinated antimicrobials. Register here.