June 2016 Newsletter

As we get ready for summer fun in the sun, we are pleased that we can now buy outdoor furniture and most children’s products that are flame retardant free. However these chemicals are still found in car seats and tents as discussed below. It is great news that Congressman Jared Huffman has introduced federal legislation so that flame retardant chemicals would no longer be needed in children’s car seats.
Speaking of harmful chemicals, if you haven’t seen it, please check out my editorial Tackling Toxics, which was recently published in Science. It describes our successful work with large companies to stop using entire classes of harmful chemicals, which is contributing to meeting our Six Classes Challenge.
As part of our Six Classes work, we are now going to start tackling chlorinated antimicrobials. Please contact Victoria@GreenSciencePolicy.org if you study these chemicals and might be interested in collaborating with us.
The Green Science Policy Institute is also hiring a Senior Scientist or Deputy Director. Please consider applying if you might like to join our team.
Photo: Surya Chataut, www.chatautphotography.com
This year’s Himalayan Fair is continuing to bring the music, food, arts, and crafts of the Himalayan region to Berkeley as it has done since I founded it in 1982. This was after enjoying many such festivals during my ten-month-long  walk across the Himalaya. (More in my memoir Breaking Trail.)
On a more personal note, my downstairs studio is available for rent. I’d like to rent to a friend or a friend of a friend if possible, so e-mail me if interested.
I’ll be doing something radical this month. From June 18 to 24,  I will be off-line while hiking in the remote Arctic wilderness of Lake Clark National Park. My first days off-line in my ten years of toxics work!

Have a fun summer,

Are Flame Retardants Needed in Car Seats? 

While furniture and nearly all baby products no longer need flame retardants, these chemicals are still used in children’s car seats. As a result, all young children are exposed to flame retardants. We shared this problem with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael),  who then introduced a bill to change federal flammability standards so that car seats won’t need flame retardants while still maintaining fire-safety.
Julie Watts, Consumer Correspondent for CBS ConsumerWatch, has been a leading voice for this change and you can read here about the latest response from legislators. We are following this legislation in Congress and will report back in our monthly GSP newsletter in July.
Get in touch if you currently receive these quarterly messages from me and would like to also receive monthly updates on reducing the use of harmful chemicals from our Institute.

Tris on Your Tent?

Researchers at Duke University found that people can be exposed to flame retardants from backpacking tents, which are often treated with flame retardants to comply with a flammability standard called CPAI-84. This standard is required in seven U.S. states, and many manufacturers sell flame retarded tents throughout the U.S. to comply. This is similar to the case of upholstered furniture, where furniture containing flame retardants was sold in the U.S. and Canada to meet California’s flammability regulations.

TDCPP, the same form of chlorinated tris that was removed from baby pajamas in the 1970s, was the most frequently detected flame retardant in the tents studied. The researchers found that levels of flame retardants on people’s hands increased after tent set-up. Also flame retardants were measured in the air inside tents. It’s disturbing to go into the great outdoors, only to be exposed to tris. We are in conversation with outdoor manufacturers who would like to change the tent flammability standard.

Teflon Toxin in Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released lifetime drinking water health advisories for the highly fluorinated chemicals PFOA and PFOS. These harmful chemicals, used to provide stain and water repellency, can be found in food, in drinking water, and in nearly all of us. Here’s a dramatic CBS news story for which I was interviewed. To learn more about fluorinated chemicals, check out our web page, watch our Six Classes webinar, and listen to my recent KPFA interview on Sticky Issues.

PFOA, also called C8, was phased out in 2015 due to its toxicity and persistence. The common replacement, C6, is equally persistent and also being found in our drinking water. This is yet another unfortunate example of replacing a harmful chemical with a “cousin” from the same chemical class.
Here are two opposite perspectives about the toxicity of C6 indicating it should not be in our drinking water. And it should only be used in consumer products when necessary and there are no good substitutes.
  • Industry Knowledge Foundation: “…short chain fluorinated chemicals have a favorable environmental, health and safety profile, rapid bioelimination and are not bioaccumulative…they are safe for workers, consumers and the environment…”
  • From The Intercept: DuPont filed 16 reports to the EPA between April 2006 and January 2013 citing similar adverse health effects in animal studies from C6 exposure as found from C8 including cancer of the liver, pancreas, and testicles as well as kidney disease, liver degeneration, and uterine polyps.

Michigan Children & Grandchildren Still Harmed by PBB Disaster 40 Years Ago

A recent study found that 60% of 800 Michigan residents tested have higher PBB levels than 95% of the US population. PBBs are very similar in structure and properties to PBDEs, which were used as a flame retardant in furniture and baby product foam for decades and are still found in such products in our homes.

Over forty years ago in Michigan, Velsicol Chemical made a big mistake. By accident, they substituted a toxic flame retardant called polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), or Firemaster, for a feed supplement being distributed by the Michigan Farm Bureau. The chemical was added to livestock feed, exposing millions of Michigan residents who ate contaminated beef, chicken, pork, milk and eggs. The disaster was made into an award-winning movie called “Bitter Harvest” (1981), and described in Joyce Egginton’s classic book The Poisoning of Michigan. This toxic tragedy is told with the suspense of a detective novel.

Long-term health effects continue to impact those who were exposed, as well as their children and grandchildren. Adverse health effects include higher rates of breast cancer and miscarriages in women, and an increase in adverse genitourinary conditions in sons of the exposed. A registry for ongoing studies and more information is available from Emory University.

We’re Hiring a Deputy Director
The Green Science Policy Institute is hiring a Deputy Director or Senior Scientist to lead our Six Classes work. Please consider applying here if you would like to work with us to reduce toxics and protect human health and the global environment.

Calendar of Upcoming Events

June 26 – 29, 2016: ACS Northwest Regional Meeting: Chemistry Under the Midnight Sun
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.
June 28, 2016: “Breaking Trail: Mountains and Molecules”

Arlene Blum will give a free talk “Breaking Trail: Mountains and Molecules” at 7:00pm. Reception begins at 6:30pm. Talk will be held at Alaska Public Media Studio, 3877 University Drive in Anchorage, Alaska. Please contact Pam at pamela@akaction.org for more information.

August 28, 2016: The Science and Policy of Organohalogens in Consumer Products
Before the 2016 Dioxin symposium in Florence, Italy, 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. Click here for more information.

October 10, 2016: Management of Waste Foams and Plastics Mixed with Flame Retardants
Prior to the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association National Conference, GSP will facilitate a half-day workshop in Portland, OR, on management of waste foams and plastics mixed with flame retardants. Click here for more information.

October 10 – 13, 2016: North American Hazardous Materials Management Association (NAHMMA) National Conference
Arlene Blum will deliver the keynote speech on October 11th. Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon. More information to come, on the NAHMMA website.