March 2009 Newsletter

Dear all,

The Green Science Policy Institute has lots of news to report below, ranging from SB772, a new California bill to get toxic fire retardants out of baby products, to a new partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Futures Society to protect both marine mammals and humans.

Please vote for our question for Obama’s town hall tomorrow to help the administration get started thinking about chemical policy reform. Please go to and search for the term “chemical policy” to vote for our question. Voting closes at 9:30am EST tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

We are looking for a young person to take over the job of my colleague Elana who will be starting business school in the fall and/or a person with business skills to be the deputy executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. Also we need an evaluator to join our stimulus grant proposal. Please send your suggestions.

Happy spring,

Ask President Obama About Chemical Policy Reform
The Green Science Policy Institute is Looking For An Evaluator
The Green Science Policy Institute is Hiring
The Fire Retardant Dilemma At UC Berkeley May 8, 2009
Partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau & Ocean Futures Society
California Senate Bill Would Remove Fire Retardant Chemicals From Juvenile Products (SB772)
Outstanding Women of Berkeley Award
Upcoming Lectures & Events
The Green Science Policy Institute is Applying for Stimulus Funds
Article in California Progress Report by GSP
American Chemical Society Meeting Summary
Firefighters study
Update from Recent East Coast Trip

President Obama will be holding an online town hall tomorrow and is taking questions. The public is encouraged to vote for questions and they’ll pick some of the most popular to answer. The Green Science Policy Institute has submitted a question. To vote for our question, visit and sign up with a username and password
Search for “chemical policy” to find the following question:
“Chemical policy in this country is outdated and does not protect consumers from toxic chemicals used in consumer products. Is your administration considering chemical policy reform to protect our health and environment from toxics?”

Please pass this request to your friends. The more votes we get, the better our chances of President Obama answering our question! Voting closes at 9:30am EST tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

The Green Science Policy Institute is applying for a grant for funds from the stimulus package through the NIEHS. The proposed project would focus on educating community members about fire retardant chemicals. We are looking for an evaluator for the project who has experience evaluating outreach programs and educational materials. Please send any suggestions to

The Green Science Policy Institute is hiring for the position of Program and Finance Associate (PFA), working directly with Arlene to ensure that the Green Science Policy Institute’s goals are achieved. The PFA leads individual projects and activities of the organization (including research and writing), manages the organization’s finances, drafts materials for distribution and publication and develops relationships with partner organizations (both in the US and internationally.) In addition, the PFA provides administrative support for Arlene, serves as the principle point of entry for partner organizations and the public, and supports Arlene by ensuring that the most important issues are prioritized.

For a full job description or to apply please e-mail To apply, please send a cover letter, resume and writing sample.

Please forward to anybody you think may be interested in this position.

You are invited to attend:
The Fire Retardant Dilemma Session VII
When: Friday, May 8, 8:30am to 4:00pm
Where: 150 University Hall, 2199 Addison Street, UC Berkeley (Oxford and Addison). To attend, RSVP with contact info:
Please note we are requesting a contribution of $20 per person to cover lunch, continental breakfast, snacks, etc.
Past presentations at:
Next session: September 25, 2009

This symposium series brings together contributors from industry, government, academia, and citizens groups to share information and research results on the impacts of fire retardant materials and policies and how to protect human and environmental health by reducing toxics in consumer products.

Speakers to date for May 8th:
o       Susan D. Shaw, Director, Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI), Blue Hill, Maine, Are We Running out of Time?  Bioaccumulation and Health Risks of PBDEs and PFCs in Marine Mammals
o       Donna Mensching, DVM, University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine, The ABCs and PBDEs of Feline Hyperthyroidism: Current Findings on a Modern Epidemic
o       Kris Senecal, Research Biologist, US Army Natick Soldier Center, Protecting our Troops from Fire Injuries as well as Fire Retardants
o       Carl Cranor, University of California, Riverside, Reckless Nation, Contaminated Nation: Some Legal Strategies to Reduce Risks

Possible Panel Discussions:
o       Can hyperthyroid disease in cats be related to chemical exposure?
o       How can we protect wildlife, pets, and our families from brominated flame retardants and other persistent organic pollutants

For more than half a century, the Cousteau family has shared their discoveries and their concerns about the ocean with the public.

Because of the high levels of toxic fire retardants in killer whales, captured in a two-hour PBS special, “Call of the Killer Whale,” (premieres April 22, 2009 at 8pm, check local listings) the Cousteau team has contacted the Green Science Policy Institute for more information and are moving from the ocean into the domain of human health. They are concerned about California’s flammability standards and the chemicals used to meet them. Jean-Michael Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society team are partnering with the Green Science Policy Institute to launch an international campaign to educate the public, to ban the most toxic flame retardants, and to support all efforts to find and develop safe alternatives when a fire hazard has been demonstrated.

California SB 772 is Senator Mark Leno’s newly proposed California legislation to end a flammability requirement that has led to the use of toxic or untested fire retardants in baby products containing foam. Currently across the U.S., most nursing pillows, high chairs, strollers, changing pads, etc are treated with fire retardant chemicals to meet TB117, the California furniture and juvenile product flammability standard. There is no data showing these products pose a fire hazard.

I am pleased to announce that I have been recognized with an Outstanding Women of Berkeley Award. To commemorate National Women’s History Month, the Commission on the Status of Women of the City of Berkeley each year recognizes and honors the efforts of extraordinary women who live, work or learn in Berkeley, and who have done outstanding work in the Berkeley community.

The award ceremony will be held on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Street, at 6:00 pm. The event is open to the public.

For a full calendar, visit

On April 8th I’ll be speaking at the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory of the Department of Toxic Substances Control in Berkeley, CA (700 Heinz Avenue, Suite 100, Berkeley, California 94710.) To attend, contact Kathleen Jones-Tucker

On April 9th I’ll be speaking about Goal Setting at an Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) event titled Developing your Career Path from 4:30pm-7:00pm. The event will be held at the REI store in Berkeley (1338 San Pablo Ave (near Gilman), Berkeley, CA)
For more information, visit

On April 21st, I’ll be in Tacoma, WA talking at the University of Washington, Tacoma in the Carwein Auditorium from 12:30pm-1:30pm and at the Tacoma Mountaineers in the Tacoma Mountaineers Clubhouse in Oldtown from 7:00pm-8:00pm. On April 22nd I’ll be speaking in Seattle, WA at the University of Washington in the Health Sciences Building T-625 at 12:30pm.

On May 5th I’ll give the keynote talk for Posters on the Hill where selected undergraduate science projects are presented to members of Congress and will return to DC in October for a similar presentation for some east coast colleges.

On May 7th I’ll be leading a workshop at the 2009 National Environmental Partnership Summit in San Francisco, CA
For more information, visit

With a team of epidemiologists led by Mary Turyk at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Green Science Policy Institute is applying an NIEHS grant to conduct a study of PBDE exposure and health effects in flight attendants and their children. Because of stringent fire regulations, airplanes have high levels of fire retardant chemicals. A recent analysis of dust and foam samples from airplanes found pentaBDE, which is no longer produced and has been shown to cause health problems in animals, and chlorinated Tris, a probable carcinogen. The Green Science Policy Institute will share the study results with the flight attendant community and the public.

See for a new article from the Green Science Policy Institute, Averting a California toxics disaster, in the on-line California Progress Report
At last weekend’s American Chemical Society (ACS) Board Meeting, I presented the Fire Retardant Dilemma to the Committee on Environmental Improvement and advocated that the ACS support phasing out toxic chemicals in consumer products, and encourage green chemistry research to find nontoxic alternatives when needed.

The San Francisco Fire Department has a very high incidence of cancer in their firefighters. The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation is working to reduce the toxic exposures that firefighters receive at fires and how we can identify them and prevent them.

The Green Science Policy Institute is partnering with Kannan Kurunthachalam, from SUNY Albany, and Tony Stefani, Board Chair of the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation , to conduct a pilot study of firefighter exposure to dioxins and furans.

In February, I took a trip to the east coast to talk about toxics with the new White House liaisons for health and environment, staffers from the Senate and House, Army representatives, EPA, Consumers Union, Environmental Working Group and Environmental Defense Fund as below

1.       Most baby products in the US containing polyurethane foam (such as nursing and pregnancy pillows, changing pads, strollers, high chairs, crib teething rings, etc.) have a label stating that they meet the California furniture flammability standard (TB117). The usual ways to meet this standard are adding high levels chlorinated Tris (the carcinogenic chemical taken out of children’s sleepwear in the 1970s based on our research,) or Firemaster 550, (lacks toxicity information and contains problematic ingredients).
Speaking at Consumer Union, I encouraged them to analyze products to learn what chemicals are being used and then inform consumers outside California who are not required to follow this standard , so they can protect their families from furniture and baby products with toxic fire retardants.

2.       The U.S. Army needs more flame resistant garments to prevent burn injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are concerned about the impact of the flame retardant chemicals on the soldiers, but cannot find out what chemicals are being used. An army scientist from Natick will be speaking at our May 8 Fire Retardant Dilemma Symposium at U.C. Berkeley. You are also invited to attend and there is more information below.

3.       On a happy note, Linda Birnbaum, the new head of NEIHS, asked me to pass on the following message to the White House liaisons and Congressional staffers who I spoke with later in the day:

The health sciences community is excited about ten billion dollars which will create new jobs, save jobs of scientists, and pay for important research.

U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a cancer survivor, introduced an amendment to the stimulus package to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $6.5 billion. Specter’s vote was necessary to pass the package.

4.       I spent an hour meeting Stuart Eizenstat, a distinguished Democrat and lead lobbyist for the bromine industry, to educate him about the toxic chemicals manufactured by his employers.

6.       Taking a walk in New Rochelle, NY, we passed many TVs dumped on the curb sides because of the transition from analog to digital. The plastic enclosures are most probably two toxic chemicals 20% decaBDE as well as 10% antimony trioxide. More information is at

Please contact us at 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

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