July 2008 Newsletter

Dear friends,

Please consider joining us for a molecular or mountainous adventure.

Against all odds, we have managed to stop four unneeded flammability standards for electronics that could have had catastrophic impacts on the world’s health and environment and increased the expense of recycling of consumer electronics. I’m delighted and amazed to have found this opportunity to use my training as a chemist to benefit the world.

We are now working to pass AB706 a landmark bill to reduce toxic fire retardants in consumer products in California. Please get in touch if you want to learn more, volunteer, or contribute to this important work.

Last month I attended Green Week in Brussels and had the opportunity to educate NGOs and government officials in the EU about toxic chemicals. I also enjoyed a snowy hike in the French Alps. Last week I spoke at a Green Chemistry and Commerce meeting in Oregon and climbed in the Olympics Mountains. Annalise is in Tanzania for the summer helping with a Stanford environmental engineering research project on water and health. You can see photos and read about her adventures at http://annaliseblum.blogspot.com/.

In December I’m planning a nine day trek in the Annapurna range; fitting since 2008 is the 30th anniversary of our team reaching the summit in 1978. In June and July 2009, my geophysicist friend Tanya Atwater and I are co-leading a geology trek in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh.

Please consider joining one of our adventures in science or in the mountains.

Happy Summer 2008

An Success for the World
The Initiative for Green Science Policy
Would you like to be a Founding Donor?
Recent Media
California Assembly Bill 706
TV Take Back: Avoiding an E-Waste Tsunami
Holiday Trek in Nepal: Annapurna Anniversary Dec 15, 2008- Jan 1, 2009
Ladakh Geology Trek and Adventure June 15 to July 9, 2009
Climbing Your Own Everests: Leadership & Sustainability
Annalise’s Tanzania Blog and her Gap Year Site
The Fire Retardant Dilemma at UC Berkeley

Our team has been successful at stopping four proposed candle flammability standards which would have led to the use of up to 1.7 billion pounds of unneeded chemicals in electronic housings each year. The bromine industry has spent millions of dollars and thousands of person hours since 2002 promoting these flammability standards for consumer electronic housings in order to market their toxic bromine. With no budget, but a great team working long hours to put together a strong scientific argument, we were able to bring health and environmental impacts into the discussion and defeat their effort.

58% of the 31 voting countries including the U.S. voted No. Many countries cited our paper, “The Case against Candle Safe Electronics” as having provided the information which led them to vote against the standard. Our paper can be downloaded at http://greensciencepolicy.org/standards.shtml. The story is told in an article in the electronics industry press at: http://circuitsassembly.com/cms/content/view/6557/95/ 58

Three other industry efforts to require similar candle standards Underwriter’s Laboratory, the Canadian Standards Association as well as a similar international standard for TVs through the IEC were stopped with the final vote in late June.

PentaBDE from California furniture is now found in high levels in marine mammals, birds of prey, and polar regions; and may be contributing to health problems in humans as well as in wild animals. Thinking of the extent to which an annual production of 20 million pounds of pentaBDE polluted the planet, it was important to help stop up to 1.7 billion pounds of related chemicals.

Colleagues and I are working to start the Initiative for Green Science Policy (GSP) and are in discussion with scientists at Stanford and UC Berkeley. Our goals are:
1. Provide current unbiased research results and data to the manufacturing industries to help them address real environmental challenges, including considerations of human and environmental health in their material and process selection, and moving towards true sustainability.
2. Serve as an interface between academic scientists and engineers and the policy needs of national, state, and local governments.
3. Provide research opportunities for science and engineering students to solve challenging interdisciplinary problems with potential policy, health, and environmental real world applications.
4. Interface and support REACH and other environmental initiatives in the European Union and world wide.

The Initiative for Green Science Policy should get non-profit status this month. Please contact our development director Sarah Hanson, sfhanson@gmail.com, or me if you might like to learn more about becoming one of our founding donors or if you can suggest individuals or foundations that might like to contribute to our work.

Please find below some URLs for media coverage on national CBS news and also California stations.

In the 1970’s, my research helped ban Tris, a carcinogenic flame retardant used to treat children’s sleepwear. Fast-forward 30 years, and the same Tris is currently the second most commonly used fire retardant in furniture in California.
At the same time, proposed new standards for furniture and bedding flammability could bring millions more pounds of fire-retardant chemicals into our homes and the environment annually. Many of these chemicals are persistent and accumulate up the food chain in people and wildlife where they can cause cancer, birth defects, and neurological, reproductive, and developmental health problems. Developing fetuses and young children are the most vulnerable.

California Assemblyman Mark Leno has introduced AB 706 to reduce the use of potentially toxic fire retardant chemicals in furniture, bedding, and pillows in California. This bill will safeguard California’s health and environment and also encourage the development of safer alternative chemicals and technologies. Our state can become a pioneer in innovative green chemistry just as we were for the high tech revolution.
Get in touch if you would like to work with us for a healthier California.

Next February, with the conversion from analog to digital signals, tens of millions of TVs will be replaced. If not properly disposed of, their hazardous components will contaminate the environment and pose a threat to human health. The enclosures of many U.S. TVs contain up 20% of the toxic fire retardant decaBDE. It is critical that such toxics be disposed of responsibly. Although responsible recycling programs are common in Japan, Taiwan and the EU, only Sony is currently offering a TV Take-Back program in the U.S., as described at http://takebackmytv.com.

We have recently launched an initiative with the Electronics Take Back Coalition asking U.S. TV manufacturers to implement TV take-back and responsible recycling programs.
We hope that by this fall most of the major TV companies will follow Sony’s lead. Then we will focus on consumer education to encourage consumers to recycle their old TVs and purchase their new ones from companies that participate in take-back and responsible recycling.

If you would like to help with these efforts, please contact Elana at elana@arleneblum.com.

In December, I’m looking forward to returning to Nepal for a leisurely Annapurna Holiday Trek on the 30th anniversary of the first American ascent of Annapurna I. The trip will be over the December holidays when flights fill early. Please get in touch as soon as possible if you might like to join us.

We will follow an ancient and still used trade route from Pokhara through river valleys and up and down ridges with spectacular Himalayan vistas during the crisp clear days of December. Along the way we will pass through rice terraces and rhododendron groves that are home to the farming families of the Brahmin/Chhetri, Magar, and Gurung tribes. This trek offers dramatic views of the Himalayan giants Annapurna I, Annapurna II, Annapurna South, Macchapuchare, and the Lamjung Himal.

We will appreciate spectacular mountain scenery and warm village hospitality just as we did thirty years ago during our Annapurna expedition. We will also enjoy outstanding shopping and relaxing in tropical Pokhara, and exploring the ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley.

You are invited to join mountaineer 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 Himalayan 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.

Lauren Heine, a respected green chemist; Victoria Keller, a noted outdoor educator, and have developed a leadership workshop to help organizations find a new vision of their future based on safer materials and sustainability. During these workshops, participants use hands-on activities, case studies, and their own experiences to define their values and vision for the future. The outdoor and group problem-solving activities lead to the formation of a united team. Participants develop a personal vision statement and an action plan to use their new skills to implement their vision.
If you know of an organization that might like more information about leadership and sustainability workshops, please ask them to get in touch with us. I have previously developed a leadership workshop for the chemists at National Laboratories; we would especially like to work with the chemical industry to help them find a new vision for their future based on environmental and human health and safer chemicals.

My daughter Annalise writes from Tanzania about her summer helping with an environmental engineering research project on water and health. You can see photos and read about her adventures at http://annaliseblum.blogspot.com/.

“I’m so glad I’m here! It’s wonderful working with the Tanzanians and I’m learning a lot of Swahili–I talk all the time surprisingly… Our project is going well, but we work about 15 hours a day, 6 days a week. Each morning I wake up at 6 am to go meet the Tanzanian enumerators before they start their interviews and give them feedback from the previous day. I help on the computer to edit our data or work on figuring out the households that need to be sampled. I sometimes go grocery shopping which is one of the most exhausting activities ­you have to bargain for everything and then carry the groceries for 10 people for a week. The local market is also an adventure. There are cockroaches everywhere and you have to be careful not to step on random men sleeping under the tables. But they have most food I want here– even broccoli and Nutella! Not to mention the octopus hors d’oeuvres sold by wandering street vendors. No tofu though. There are also impressive bike vendors who sell everything from knives to crates of eggs from the back of their bike.”

Two years ago Annalise made a gap year website to help students who want to take time off after high school at http://www.freewebs.com/gapyearsite
The site has profiles of successful gap years and lots of resources on volunteering internationally. If you can recommend good programs or resources, or know someone who has taken a gap year and would like to write for the site, you can email Annalise at annalise@stanford.edu.

The Fire Retardant Dilemma: Sessions VI
When: Friday, Sept 19, 8:30am to 4:00pm
Where: 150 University Hall, UC Berkeley (Oxford and Addison). The Fire Retardant Dilemma: How can we achieve fire and environmental safety as well as protect public health? This seminar will bring together speakers from industry, government, academia, and citizens groups to share information and research results and discuss innovative solutions to the Fire Retardant Dilemma.
To attend, RSVP with contact info: FRDilemma@gmail.com or 510 644 3164
Please note we are expanding to an all day format for the entire audience.
Tentative Speakers to Date:
Margarita C. Curras-Collazo
, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Dept Cell Biology & Neuroscience, UC Riverside
New information on how exposure to fire retardant chemicals before birth can permanently harm the neuroendocrine system, body water regulation, and cardiovascular function.
Dr. Asa Bradman, Associate Director for the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley
“PBDE exposure and thyroid functioning: Results from a population-based study of pregnant mothers and children in California.”
Michael Wilson and Megan Schwarzman, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley, Green Chemistry: Cornerstone to a Sustainable California
Donna Mensching
, (not confirmed) DVM, University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine The ABCs and PBDEs of Feline Hyperthyroidism: Current Findings on a New Epidemic
Alastair Iles, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management, UC Berkeley Seeking Product Alternatives: How Industry Can Critique Design
Arlene Blum, Visiting Scholar, Chemistry, UC Berkeley
Update on chemical Policy Reform and Review of Sessions One to Five
The agenda for this session and also PowerPoint lectures and agendas from previous sessions are posted at http://greensciencepolicy.org/conferences.shtml.

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

Arlene Blum, PhD
Visiting Scholar, Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Box 5455, Berkeley, California, 94705
Telephone: 510 644-3164  Mobile: 510 919-6363
Web: www.greensciencepolicy.org, www.arleneblum.com