October 2016 Newsletter


I hope you had an enjoyable summer. I am back from Bratislava, Slovakia, where I was honored to join leaders from the 28 EU countries at the Transition to a Green Economy meeting. Their commitment and collaborative efforts to solve climate change and other environmental problems were inspirational.
In Florence, prior to the Dioxin 2016 meeting, sixty four international scientists joined our Institute’s day-long Science and Policy meeting to discuss strategies to reduce toxics. Together, we launched the Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban, a scientific consensus on the hazards of these widely used antimicrobials, one of our Six Classes of chemicals of concern. Later in Brussels, the European Furniture Industries Confederation launched their campaign for flame retardant-free furniture to reduce the use of another of the Six Classes, and we took our message to the EU Parliament and Commission.
 Kayaking on Turquoise Lake,  Lake Clark Nat’l Park, Alaska
Earlier in the summer, after a rare week offline in the Alaska backcountry, I presented two keynote talks at “Chemistry Under the Midnight Sun,” an American Chemical Society meeting in Anchorage. Speaking for Alaska Community Action on Toxics  I learned that, very sadly, Arctic indigenous people have among the highest level of toxics such as flame retardants and PCBs in their bodies–and also have very high rates of birth defects and cancer.

For a lighter look at the toxics problem, you might like to check out the movie STINK! featuring many friends and me. It’s free during Breast Cancer Awareness Month at http://www.stinkmovie.com.

After enjoying Cape Cod with my daughter Annalise in July, I helped coordinate a media campaign for our  joint study with Harvard scientists finding that the drinking water of at least 6 million Americans is polluted with highly fluorinated chemicals, another of the Six Classes of chemicals of concern. We found that a major source of this contamination was military bases and airports that use fire-fighting foam.
Watch an excellent short CBS video (left) to learn more.
Following extensive press coverage, the US Air Force announced in August they would use water instead of this foam for training exercises–a huge boon to clean water and health!
Thank you for your continued interest and support.


P.S. Please remember to register and vote.

A Circular Economy for a Healthier World

Europe is working to move their economy from the traditional model of “take-make-consume-dispose,” to a circular model where the use of resources and energy are minimized.
Also, resources and energy are managed efficiently during their entire life cycle. This reduces adverse impacts from the extraction of new materials, emissions of hazardous substances, and waste disposal.

This diagram shows how materials and waste can be better managed with eco-design, reuse, and recycling. The desired flows of energy and materials are above the dotted line and those to be avoided are below. To achieve a green and circular economy, the use of the Six Classes of chemicals of concern should be minimized; products containing them cannot safely be reused or recycled, and are also difficult to landfill or destroy.

Lilyana Vynogradova / Shutterstock.com

Gymnasts’ High Exposure

In addition to facing physical dangers, gymnasts like Olympic champion Simone Biles can also be highly exposed to harmful flame retardants. High levels of these chemicals have been measured in the air, dust, and foam in U.S. gyms-and also in the bodies of gymnasts. A recent study found that the same toxic flame retardants used in gyms’ pit cubes can be measured in gymnasts after they practiced. The study author said, “Training in a foam pit is essentially like swimming in flame retardants.” Exposure to these chemicals has been associated with reproductive, neurological, and hormonal impairments, as well as with cancer.
The question is, “Are flame retardants needed, given the potential for health harm?”

From Products to Dust to Us

Do you know what’s in your couch? Since 2014, a free service at Duke University has been analyzing foam samples from furniture, car seats, and other products. Toxic flame retardants  are found much less often in furniture purchased after  2014,  showing that updates to California’s furniture flammability regulation TB117 are working! Such great news!
In another study researchers found that indoor dust contains harmful chemicals from four of the Six Classes. These include phthalates, phenols like BPA, flame retardants, and highly fluorinated chemicals– used to make products non-stick or grease resistant.
An infographic that shows how we are exposed is here.

Do You Want to Learn More??

This is my personal quarterly e-newsletter.  To learn more about the science and policy of harmful chemicals and how to reduce their use, consider subscribing to the Green Science Policy Institute’s monthly e-newsletter.
Our archive of past monthly e-newsletters is here.

We’re Hiring
Please check our jobs page if you might like to work with us to reduce toxics and to protect human health and the global environment. The Green Science Policy Institute is hiring a Deputy Director or Senior Scientist, as well as a Science and Policy Associate for our  Six Classes work.

Calendar of Upcoming Events

October 10, 2016: 
GSP will facilitate a half-day workshop on waste management solutions for waste foams and plastics mixed with flame retardants at the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association National Conference in Portland, Oregon. Contact Sara@GreenSciencePolicy.org for more information.
October 11 – 13, 2016: 
Arlene Blum will deliver the keynote speech on October 11th in Portland, Oregon. Info on the NAHMMA website.
February 8, 2017: 
This one-day participatory workshop will bring together experts in academia and industry to develop basic scientific research projects pertaining to the responsible disposal of foams and plastics containing flame retardants.
SAVE THE DATE!  February 10, 2017: 
Green Science Policy Symposium: Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyond
This series brings together scientists, business, government, and citizens groups to share information on flame retardants, fluorinated chemicals, and other chemicals of concern.
This meeting is from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, 150 University Hall, UC Berkeley (2199 Addison Street, Berkeley CA).
Contact info@GreenSciencePolicy.org to receive registration information when available.