Holiday Newsletter 2009

Dear friends,

Early holiday greetings. The last months have been busy with trips to the Washington DC area to speak with Congressional staffers as well as EPA, Consumer Product Safety Commission and other agencies about reducing toxics to protect our health and environment.

Please consider signing our petition at the end of this newsletter to prevent the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals and materials in bed coverings and pillows.

California Senator Mark Leno, with whom we have collaborated for three years on ground-breaking bills to prevent the use of toxic flame retardants, spoke at a recent gala fundraising dinner for the Green Science Policy Institute. The company, food, and conversation were fabulous and the support for our accomplishments was inspiring. Can you also contribute to our work of protecting human health and the environment by making a donation at:

Today is the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in Bhopal, where a Union Carbide plant released toxic pesticides, killing 15,000 and injuring hundreds of thousands.,0,3728767.story
This serves as a grim reminder that we need to reduce the unneeded use and adverse impacts of toxic chemicals.

For the New Year, the Green Science Policy Institute is looking for a deputy executive director with business skills, as well as an experienced project manager and an excellent writer with an interest in public health to join our team. Please send your suggestions.

I am hoping to once again lead a Himalayan trek this spring or summer. Get in touch if you want information. The Green Science Policy Institute wishes you a very happy holiday season


How You Can Avoid Toxic Baby Products and Furniture
Your Support Can Help Us Create A Less Toxic World
An Autographed Copy of “Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life ” for a Holiday Gift
The Poising of Michigan
New Publications from Green Science Policy Institute
The Fire Retardant Dilemma at UC Berkeley February 12 and May 21 2010
The Climate Change Report on the Radio
New to Facebook
Annalise’s Adventure Blog and Gap Year Website
Boomerang! The Children’s Audio Magazine about Big Ideas
27th Annual Berkeley Himalayan Fair May 29-30, 2010 at Live Oak Park in Berkeley
URGENT Petition to Stop Toxics in Bed Coverings and Pillows

The California flammability standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) is a de facto requirement for flame retardants foam in furniture and baby products. There is no requirement for labeling, testing for adverse health effects, or data to show a proven fire safety benefit from this standard. If you live outside California, you should be able to find products without the TB117 label.

Avoid upholstered furniture, nursing pillow, highchairs, strollers, baby carriers etc. with polyurethane foam and a label stating they meet TB117. These products are likely to contain the same tris that was removed from children’s sleepwear or other untested or toxic flame retardants. There is no data to show these chemicals save lives.

Instead, consider buying furniture and baby products made of polyester, down, wool, or cotton, which are unlikely to contain added flame retardant chemicals. Also consider upholstered furniture where the foam is thickly covered or wrapped inside the cushion so the chemicals are less likely to escape into your home. Please pass on this message about reducing toxics by avoiding TB117 labeled products containing foam to your friends.

We at the Green Science Policy Institute believe that preventing health problems by reducing toxic chemicals is much more effective than trying to cure the conditions they cause such as cancer, endocrine and thyroid disruption, neurological and reproductive problems such as hyperactivity and infertility. Working with distinguished scientists, doctors, industry representatives, and policy makers around the world, we have stopped the unnecessary use of billions of pounds of flame retardants in consumer products.

Our biggest challenge now is finding funding to continue and expand our work. We invite you to contribute whatever you can to the Green Science Policy Institute and join our expedition to a healthier and more sustainable future for our children, our pets, and the living world.

Please make a tax-deductible donation at or by check (please make check payable to SEE/GSP) and mail to:
Green Science Policy Institute
P.O. Box 5455, Berkeley, CA 94705
Please include the following information: Name, Address, City, State, Zip, Phone
GSP is a Project of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Contributions of $50 or greater will receive an acknowledgement letter from SEE that can be used for tax purposes.

For your holiday reading or a gift, consider a copy the hardback or revised paperback edition of “Breaking Trail”. They are $27.50 and $14 respectively with a personal autograph. or.

The famous “A Woman’s Place is on Top…Annapurna” t-shirt, Annapurna videos, and Himalayan language courses are also available at

You also can or purchase Breaking Trail from your independent bookstore and read reviews at

Please order by December 15 for delivery by Christmas.

Joyce Eggington’s classic book on The Poisoning of Michigan by the flame retardant polybrominated biphenylether or PBB, commonly called Firemaster has been reissued. This toxic tragedy unwinds with the suspense of a detective novel.

The story begins in 1973 when the Michigan Chemical Corporation in error delivered poorly marked brown bags of Firemaster to the Michigan Farm Bureau. Employees there assumed that the bags contained the magnesium oxide supplement know Nutrimaster that had been ordered and mixed it into cattle feed to be delivered across the state. Only because one of the first farmers to lose his herd of dairy cows had incredible persistence and a degree in chemical engineering was the mystery of the poisoned animals eventually solved. By this time, the nine million residents of Michigan had been ingesting contaminated milk and meat for nearly a year. Eventually, millions of farm animals had to be destroyed, and humans with high levels of exposure had increased cancer and reproductive health problems.

A different mixture, with a similar name, Firemaster 550, is the major flame retardant being used in furniture and baby product foam across North America today. It is hard to believe that 36 years after The Poisoning of Michigan, we are still using chemical mixtures called Firemaster.

To order The Poisoning of Michigan from Amazon, go to

There is a recent profile of the Green Science Policy Institute and me in the Wall Street Journal

Two recent publications for which we are co-authors are below.

Detection of Organophosphate Flame Retardants in Furniture Foam and U.S. House Dust is on the Environmental Science & Technology website Heather Stapleton and others found the same chlorinated tris that was removed from children’s sleepwear in the 1970’s in still used in foam in furniture and baby products and was found in 48 of 50 house dust samples tested.

Immunoassay for Monitoring Environmental and Human Exposure to the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether BDE-47 is on the Environmental Science & Technology website as well.
Ki Chang Ahn is the first author of this paper showing how to rapidly and inexpensively test furniture foam for the toxic flame retardant pentaBDE. This assay is a first step towards identifying and disposing of furniture containing this toxic chemical and should help prevent pentaBDE from entering the environment and our food supply.

You are invited to the tenth and eleventh sessions of our tri annual meeting at U.C. Berkeley
The Green Science Policy Symposium Flame Retardant Dilemma:
Chemicals, Health, and Policy
8:30am to 4:00pm
Next sessions: February 12, 2010
150 University Hall, UC Berkeley, 2199 Addison Street
To attend, RSVP with your contact information: or 510-644-3164

This meeting will feature new results on human health impacts of flame retardant chemicals and current efforts towards chemical policy reform. Speakers include
”       Mary Turyk, PhD, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, PBDEs and Human Health: Effects on Thyroid and Reproductive Hormones.
”       Tom Webster, DSc, Department of Environmental Health, Boston University Introduction to Human Exposure and Epidemiology Studies: Flame Retardants and other Persistent Halogenated Chemicals
”       Asa Bradman, PhD, MS, Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research, School of Public Health, UCB, PBDE exposure and health effects in pregnant women and children in a California agricultural community.
”       Michael Kirschner, Design Chain Associates, Approaches to chemical policy reform to meet the needs of public health, the environment , and manufacturers who use chemicals
”       Sue Chiang, MPH, MPP, Pollution Prevention Program Director, Center for Environmental Health, Flame Retardants and the development of national standards for electronic products under EPEAT

For more information or for ppts from past conferences, visit

Our good friend Mel Harte wants to keep climate change in our news headlines with the newest information. She is launching The Climate Change Report, a weekday radio series of short reports with new insights into the environmental consequences and solutions to climate change.
To download or stream all the reports, go to:
You can learn more about climate change and its solutions at: www.CoolTheEarth.US

Mel writes:
Help educate the public on Climate Change by asking your local radio station to broadcast the free Climate Change Report (CCR). Please send them the link:
Thanks, and please spread the news! Mel Harte,

We are just getting started on Facebook, but please do go to our site and become a fan. We will be posting more information there soon.

In case you missed Annalise’s hilarious updates and photos from her summer in Ecuador doing research on potable water systems for her senior thesis, you can enjoy them and link to her photos on her blog:

The stories include her learning to live without running water, withstanding conversion to Evangelical Christianity, and being the honored guest at a hand-washing festival, all important skills for an aspiring environmental engineer specializing in water and sewage.

After high school, Annalise took a wonderful gap year and has made a website to help other students who want to take time off at and volunteer outside the U.S.
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

“BOOMERANG: An Audio Magazine about Big Ideas for Kids” produces monthly CDs for 6-12 year olds. Annalise loved them when she was younger and I think they contributed to her values and care for the world. Kids host most of the segments “interviewing” historical figures like Joan of Arc, Galileo, Picasso Anne Frank, and Rachel Carson. They explain the “money mess”, globalization and immigration. A team of two brothers takes on physics concepts like force and gravity. There are primers on deficit spending and interest from a roadside Rhubarb and Banana Sandwich stand; plus natural wonders and mysteries.

BOOMERANG! is available via download and CD. To download a free episode and check out 50 hours of content, go to If there’s a kid in your life who you think might appreciate this fun, intelligent media, you can email or call 1 800 333-7858 to send them a gift subscription.

27th ANNUAL HIMALAYAN FAIR May 29, 30 2009
To our delight, the Himalayan Fair is continuing to bring the food, music, crafts and dances of the Himalayas to Berkeley. 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 about the next fair, contact Chandran Param at
or 510-869-3995 or visit the Himalayan Fair website at

California is moving forward with Technical Bulletin 604 (TB 604), a flammability standard for filled bed coverings, such as comforters, mattress pads, and pillows. The standard will be met with millions of pounds of toxic and untested flame retardants chemicals and materials in bed coverings each year. It is not likely to result in a reduction in fire deaths. Some manufacturers will follow this standard across the United States.

Tell California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger not to move forward with Technical Bulletin 604 until a current fire safety benefit has been established and the flame retardant chemicals and materials to be used are shown to be safe.

To sign this petition below, please reply all to this email with your name, title, city, state, and the name of your organization, if any. We are collecting sign-ons for separate petitions from organizations, from scientists and physicians, and from individuals. The petition for organizations and some of the signers to date are listed below. Thank you in advance for your support.

Dear Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,

As consumer groups and health and environmental NGOs representing millions of Americans, we are writing to ask you to stop the implementation of Technical Bulletin 604 (TB604) until its health and environmental impacts, as well as its potential fire safety benefits, are evaluated.

TB 604, being promulgated by the California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (the Bureau), would mandate that filled bedding products such as comforters, mattress pads, and pillows resist ignition by a small open flame for twenty seconds. While TB 604 does not specify a methodology, the realities of current technology and cost structures suggest that potentially toxic flame retardant materials and chemicals will be used to meet the standard.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers have reported on the adverse health and environmental properties of flame retardant chemicals. They are linked to cancer, birth defects, endocrine dysfunction, thyroid disruption, hearing deficits, reproductive dysfunction and neurological impacts, including decreased memory and learning, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity. This is of special concern for pregnant women and young children who are the most vulnerable to endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, mutagens, and neurological and reproductive toxicants. For these reasons, the California Medical Association recently passed a resolution recognizing the cumulative negative effects of flame retardants and called upon regulatory agencies to limit their use when possible (CMA Resolution 711-09).

The current severe national mattress flammability standard, fire safe cigarettes, and fire safe candles — all of which have been implemented since TB604 was evaluated – have greatly diminished its potential to provide a fire safety benefit.

TB117, a similar standard which was passed in 1973, led to the toxic PBDE flame retardants being used in polyurethane foam furniture and juvenile products sold in California from the 1975 until 2004, when PBDEs were banned by the California Legislature. These chemicals were then replaced by the same toxic Tris that was taken out of children’s sleepwear decades earlier and other chemicals for which there is no adequate health information.

Given this history of the toxicity of flame retardants, the Bureau should require that, prior to use in bed coverings and pillows, manufacturers must provide complete toxicological information for any flame retardant material or chemical used, as well as a life-cycle assessment of the potential for human and environmental harm. These data should be reviewed by an authoritative body with no conflict of interest such as the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) or the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC). A detailed summary of this information should be publicly available. In addition, all chemicals and materials in bed clothing must be labeled, so that consumers can make informed choices.

Efforts to improve fire safety should not come at the expense of increasing human and environmental exposure to untested and potentially toxic chemicals and materials. Given the lack of a proven current fire safety benefit fromTB604, we ask you not risk the health of Californians, and especially our children, by legislating untested and potentially toxic materials into our beds.


Bananas Child Care and Family Support Agency * Breast Cancer Action * Breast Cancer Fund * California Sierra Club * Californians for Alternatives to Toxics * Center for Environmental Health * Environment California * Environmental Working Group * Friends of the Earth * Green Science Policy Institute * Healthy Child Healthy World * Kids for Saving the Earth * * MOMS (Making our Milk Safe) * Natural Resources Defense Council * Ocean Futures Society * Public Trust Alliance * San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation

Secretary Fred Aguiar, State and Consumer Services Agency
Secretary Linda S. Adams, California Department of Environmental Protection
Director Brian Stiger, Department of Consumer Affairs
Chief Rick Fong, Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation
State Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, Chair, Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials
State Assemblyman Dave Jones, Chair, Committee on Health
State Senator Joe Simitian, Chair, Committee on Environmental Quality
State Senator Elaine Alquist, Chair, Committee on Health


Please consider contributing to our work of stopping this requirement for unneeded and untested flame retardant chemicals and materials in our beds by making a donation 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
Visiting Scholar, Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
Telephone: 510 644-3164           Mobile: 510 919-6363