May 2013 Newsletter


Can you believe it’s been 30 years since I walked across the Himalayas and then started the Berkeley Himalayan Fair?  You can join the 30th anniversary celebration of the music, food, arts and crafts of the Himalayas May 18, 19 in Berkeley’s Live Oak Park as described below.

It’s also hard to believe that it’s been seven years since I learned that the same toxic tris that was removed from baby pajamas in the 1970s is back in our furniture.  My up and down adventure in protecting our health from toxics continues.  Just as we are succeeding in changing a requirement for flame retardants in California couches, we have learned that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and New York state may be heading towards more flame retardants in furniture.  Please sign our petition to the CPSC to “Take the Toxic Chemicals out of my Couch” and pass it on to your friends. We ask the CPSC to hurry up and enact their 2008 draft smoulder standard to align with the up-coming change to safer healthier furniture here in California.

Please also see below for some of our recent press coverage and a request for a business to set up a toxic foam exchange.

I’m planning to hike the Haute Route in the Alps from Chamonix, France to Zermat, Switzerland August 24 to 31 after a scientific meeting in Switzerland.  Please get in touch if you might like to join the trip.

Have a good spring,


30th Annual Himalayan Fair May 18-19, 2013

The Himalayan Fair will be celebrating its 30th year anniversary May 18 and 19, 2013 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 my 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 tend my booth.

The fair’s profits go directly to the Himalayan regions as donations to orphanages, clinics, schools, village water supplies, and other Himalayan charities.

I describe starting the Himalayan Fair after returning from enjoying Himalayan Festivals during my ten month long Great Himalayan Traverse in my memoir

Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life

You can learn more at or contact Chandran at

More great media coverage

We are continuing to enjoy extensive media coverage including:

  • A front page profile in the San Francisco Chronicle is here
  • Is your couch toxic? interview on KQED TV
  • PBS’s “To the Contrary” which featured the flame retardant story and our work
  • CBS Channel 5 in San Francisco had excellent news pieces on flame retardants in baby products and  Nancy Skinner’s Assembly Bill 127 to reduce their use in building insulation
  • KALW featured a story on the growing resistance to adding flame retardants to furniture
  • An interview with Arlene on Sierra Club Radio

Flame retardants linked to lower IQs, hyperactivity in children

You can read here in Scientific American about a new study confirming that exposure in the womb to flame retardants chemicals in furniture and carpet pads may hinder child development.  This is the third recent large U.S. study finding associations between prenatal exposure to flame retardants and developmental deficits and reduced IQ in children. This is why our work to reduce the use of unnecessary flame retardants is so important for the health of our children.

Can you help us with toxic couches?

Assuming all goes well so we can buy safe couches by fall, what should be done with the tens of millions of toxic couches currently in American homes?  When landfilled, the flame retardant chemicals eventually leak into soil, water, air, and the ocean and end up in plants, animals, and our food supply.

Get in touch if you might like to start a business to help consumers exchange the toxic foam in their sofas for safer foam or have other creative approaches for proper disposal of furniture containing toxic flame retardants.

Donate now for good science and healthy furniture

Please consider contributing to protecting our health and environment from toxic chemicals by clicking here to give a gift to the Green Science Policy Institute.