March 2017 Newsletter

I trust you are enjoying the early spring. Here in Northern California we are appreciating rain and wildflowers. I trekked in Burma over the December holidays and my skied in the Wyoming back country for my March birthday. The Sierra snow has also been excellent for local skiing and the drought is ending. My upcoming adventures are a walking trip in Scotland this summer and a journey to Bali at Christmas.
The Green Science Policy Institute is continuing to focus on reducing the use of harmful classes of chemicals: fluorinated stain and water repellants, antimicrobials, and, as always, flame retardants. Our great news is the excellent recent media coverage of our science and policy work on highly fluorinated chemicals. For example, our joint papers Detection of poly-and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in U.S. drinking water linked to industrial sites, military fire training areas and wastewater treatment plants and Fluorinated compounds in US fast food packaging, received the second and third highest impact scores for press and internet coverage of any papers published in ES&T Letters.
 Our group at Bagan in Burma
scientists, government, business and NGOs came together to share information about reducing the use of harmful chemicals. On Wednesday April 19 we invite you to join a one-hour long webinar: Highly Fluorinated Chemicals: A Sticky Issue featuring dynamic speakers from our meetings above. The webinar will be at 11:00 am Pacific/2:00 pm Eastern and you can register here.
Please mark your calendars for the

June 22 launch of our new four-minute-long PowerPoint videos describing Six Classes of chemicals of concern. The Parsons School of Design, our collaborator, will host a party in New York City. And the videos will premier online at 11:00 am Pacific/2:00 pm Eastern on Thursday June 22. Look for an invitation to view these fun and instructive short PowerPoint films.

I was honored to have been selected as Alumna of the Year by International House here at UC Berkeley. The award will be presented at a Gala on April 27. Juliana Roth Ordoñez, my good friend from when I lived at International House in the 1960s, will be coming from Columbia to attend the celebration.
On May 21 and 22, Annalise and I will have our usual booth at the 34thannual Berkeley Himalayan Fair. Please come visit us under the big tree across from the stage and enjoy the entertainment.
The first wildflowers of spring are blooming in the bright green Berkeley Hills. Get in touch for a stroll if you are in town.
Have a very happy spring, Arlene
Rob Bilott at our symposium at UC Berkeley
photo by Gary Marcos

DuPont in hot water for dumping Teflon toxics in Ohio River

The BIG news is that DuPont has agreed to pay $671 million for health harm to residents in the Ohio River Valley.
For decades, the West Virginia Washington Works Plant disposed of fluorinated chemicals into the air and water of the Ohio River Valley even though DuPont scientists knew of the chemicals’ toxicity. Previously a jury awarded $1.6 million to a woman who developed kidney cancer, over $5 million to a man with testicular cancer and ordered DuPont to pay over $10 million “for actual malice” as the chemical company knew of the potential for harm.
Rob Bilott, the lawyer representing the impacted communities (see The Lawyer Who Became Dupont’s Worst Nightmare), spoke at our February 10 annual Flame Retardant and Beyond Symposium and recounted his dramatic 18 year-long saga to obtain justice. This story is eloquently recounted here by Sharon Lerner and also by Callie Lyons in her book
Stain-resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal: The Hidden Dangers of C8.
As our recent paper discussed, more than six million Americans have drinking water with levels of these chemicals above EPA health advisory levels. We are now working with leading international scientists to develop a coordinated approach for research to learn more about the human health impacts.
You are invited to a short webinar by Rob Bilott, Chris Higgins, Mark Strynar and me at 11:00 am Pacific/2:00 pm Eastern on Wednesday April 19. Register here for Highly Fluorinated Chemicals: A Sticky Issue.

Photo: Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0 @ International Fund for Animal Welfare

Stain-resistant seals?

Arctic hooded seal mothers pass highly fluorinated chemicals to their pups through their milk and placenta, a new study has found. The chemicals have been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, obesity, and immune suppression in humans.
Greenpeace produced an informative short video showing how these chemicals, which can persist in the environment for millions of years, are spreading all over the globe. Sadly, pollutants tend to build up at the highest levels in polar regions, the hooded seals’ Arctic habitat. Click here to learn more.

Flame Retardants Six Miles Deep

Small crustaceans in the Mariana trench, more than six miles below the surface of the ocean, were found to be contaminated with 50 times more toxic flame retardant chemicals than similar creatures in polluted rivers in China.

Researchers sampled deep sea trenches for polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PBDEs and PCBs are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), that do not break down in the environment, and accumulate in and are toxic to living organisms. This study demonstrates that these POPs can also accumulate in the deep sea as well as the polar regions. You can read more in The Economist and The Guardian.

Photo: Susan E. Aach

May 21 and 22: Berkeley Himalayan Fair

Please join my daughter Annalise and me at this year’s Himalayan Fair in Live Oak Park, 1300 Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley, California. You can enjoy the food, music, dance, crafts and arts of the Himalayan regions.
Please stop by our booth under the big tree northeast of the stage to visit and enjoy the entertainment. Contact me if you’d like to volunteer to help with the fair or at our booth.
I describe starting the Fair after returning from the Great Himalayan Traverse in my memoir “Breaking Trail”. More information about the Himalayan Fair is here.

Six Classes Video Launch June 22

We are launching a series of four-minute-long videos to introduce each of Six Classes of Chemicals of Concern found in everyday products and building materials. These videos are accessible and beautifully illustrated presentations covering where the chemicals are used, why they are harmful, and what can be done to reduce their use so we can all be healthier. You can view the current 15-minute long videos here.

Please save the date: June 22, 2017 at 11:00am Pacific/ 2:00pm Eastern.

You will receive more information about how you can join the virtual launch. 


March 31, 2017: Keynote at American Medical Women’s Association 102nd Annual Meeting
Arlene Blum will speak at 2:15pm, Embassy Suites SFO Waterfront, 150 Anza Blvd, Burlingame, CA. Register here.
April 2-6, 2017: American Chemical Society 253rd National Meeting and Exposition
The Green Science Policy team will present three papers at the SF Marriott Marquis:
April 2, 11:40am, Sierra K room, “GLRI success: Educating government and business towards reducing PBDEs and other chemicals of concern in the Great Lakes and beyond” by Arlene Blum
April 5, 4:05pm, Sierra J room, “Remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances using heat-activated persulfate” by Tom Bruton
April 6, morning session: “When do we need PFASs?: A policy and purchasing strategy for reducing their use” by Arlene Blum
Rob Bilott, Chris Higgins, Mark Strynar and Arlene Blum will present an hour-long webinar.
A Sticky Issue: Highly Fluorinated Chemicals at 11:00am Pacific/2:00pm Eastern. Register here.
Arlene Blum will be honored as Alumna of the Year by International House Berkeley at their 29th Annual Awards Gala. 6:00pm, International House Berkeley, 2299 Piedmont Avenue, Berkeley, CA. More information here.
34th Annual Berkeley Himalayan Fair: Saturday & Sunday, May 21 – 22 – Berkeley
Enjoy the food, music, dance, crafts and arts of the Himalayas. Profits to Himalayan charities.
When: Saturday 10am – 7pm Sunday 10am – 5pm Entertainment starts at 11am
Where: Live Oak Park, 1300 Shattuck Avenue at Berryman, North Berkeley
More information: Click here.
Email here if you might like to volunteer at the Fair.
August 20, 2017: The Science and Policy of Organohalogens in Consumer Products
Before the 2017 Dioxin symposium in Vancouver BC Canada, leading scientists will share their expertise on the science and policy of organohalogens in consumer products. The focus will be on flame retardants and fluorinated chemicals. Write for registration information when it becomes available.