Spring 2010 Newsletter

Dear friends,

Sunday’s May 18 NY Times had a short article about me and my favorite place which is Tilden Park. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/us/16sfvistas.html

Please take a few moments to protect our health and environment from toxic flame retardants by e-mailing or writing decision makers to stop their use in baby products and furniture by supporting SB1291. Please scroll to the end of this newsletter for a newly updated sample letter for you to send.The Green Science Policy Institute is looking for an experienced executive director and also a program associate. We welcome your suggestions.

If you live in the Berkeley area, please join me at the historic Hillside Club at seven pm on Sunday evening May 23, 2010 to share my favorite slides and stories about mountain and molecule adventures and also please come to the Berkeley Himalayan Fair May 29 and 30, 2010.

The last months have been busy with trips to meeting and talks. Annalise will be graduating from Stanford next month and spending her summer touring Europe before beginning work projects in Nairobi and on the Thai Burma border. She and I are looking for hiking ideas in the Alps for the last week in July.

We hope you are having a very happy spring,

Kind regards,

Annapurna: A Woman’s Place will be back in print this June
Join our Expedition to a Healthier World
Learn More about Toxic Flame Retardants
How to reduce the toxics in your Home
Annalise’s Adventure Blog and Gap Year Website
Green Science Policy and Arlene Blum Facebook Pages
Upcoming talks
27th Annual Berkeley Himalayan Fair May 29-30, 2010 at Live Oak Park in BerkeleyThe Poising of Michigan
How You can Take Action to help Stop Toxics in Baby Products and Furniture

We just received the good news that in June Sierra Club Books will reprint Annapurna A Woman’s Place, which has been out of print since fall. You can order an autographed copy at
When we decided to attempt Annapurna, we thought it would be a relatively safe easy peak. History has shown it to be the most dangerous and possibly the most difficult of the world’s 8000 meter high mountains. This classic adventure story was included in Fortune magazine’s list of “The 75 Smartest Business Books We Know” and chosen by National Geographic Adventure Magazine as one of the 100 top adventure books of all time.

The famous “A Woman’s Place is on Top…Annapurna” t-shirt, Annapurna videos, and Himalayan language courses are also available at www.arleneblum.com
And you can purchase an autographed copy of the hardback or paperback of “Breaking Trail”. http://arleneblum.com/breaking_trail_pb.html

You also can or purchase Breaking Trail from your independent bookstore and read reviews at Amazon.com

More challenging than climbing Annapurna is the Green Science Policy Institute’s expedition to a healthier world. We invite you to volunteer to help, send messages to decision makers, or contribute the Green Science Policy Institute to contribute to our work for a healthier and more sustainable future for our children, our pets, and the environment.

Please make a tax-deductible donation at www.greensciencepolicy.org/donate
or by check (please make check payable to SEE/GSP) and mail to:
Green Science Policy Institute, P.O. Box 5455, Berkeley, CA 94705
Please include your Name, Address, City, State, Zip, Phone
GSP is a Project of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Contributions of $50 or greater will receive an acknowledgement letter from SEE that can be used for tax purposes.

We believe that preventing health problems by reducing toxic chemicals is much more effective than trying to cure the conditions they are associated with such as cancer, endocrine and thyroid disruption, neurological and reproductive problems such as hyperactivity and infertility. We are working with distinguished scientists, doctors, industry representatives, and policy makers around the world to reduce toxics. Our collective efforts have stopped the unnecessary use of billions of pounds of flame retardants in consumer products. With your help we can continue and expand our work.

Get in touch if you would you like to help with SB1291 and SB772, two critical bills in Sacramento to reduce the use of flame retardants in baby products and furniture.

Check out an excellent five part series on flame retardants and health on that ran last week. on NPR Podcast and full text at http://www.environmentreport.org/

You are invited to a Green Science Policy conference call from ten to eleven thirty am on Friday May 21. Several of the Flame Retardant Dilemma speakers will give five minute previews of their talks and we will discuss current news about science and policy of flame retardants and other organohalogens. Please write FRDilemma@gmail.com or respond all to this message if you want to join the May 21 call and we will send you the call information.

You can hear leading health scientists and me speaking about Flame Retardants: Emerging Science and Policy Considerations. during a call put together by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, You can download the speakers’ PowerPoint presentation
at: http://www.healthandenvironment.org/?module=uploads&func=download&fileId=850
This MP3 recording is now available at: http://che.webfactional.com/audio/CHEfertility_flameretardants_4-15-10.mp3
*Ami Zota, Sc.D., UCSF on exposure to flame retardants
* Kim Harley, Ph.D., UC Berkeley on recent time to pregnancy study and other human health findings,
* Julie Herbstman, Ph.D., Sc.M. Columbia University on neurodevelopmental outcomes
* Arlene Blum, Ph.D., UC Berkeley: on background, alternatives to flame retardants, policy considerations
Additionally, you can check out the follow-up blog, Fueling the fire? How flame retardants might be doing more harm than good, written by Sarah Dunagan, Silent Spring Institute

Nine co-authors and I just completed a paper, Halogenated Flame Retardants: Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Risks?, which contains new and important information. Send us an email if you would like a copy after it is peer-reviewed.

The California flammability standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) is a de facto requirement for toxic or untested flame retardants in foam in furniture and baby products. There is no requirement for labeling, testing for adverse health effects, or data to show a proven fire safety benefit from this standard. If you live outside California, you should be able to find products without the TB117 label.

Avoid upholstered furniture, nursing pillow, highchairs, strollers, baby carriers etc. with polyurethane foam and a label stating they meet TB117. These products are likely to contain the same tris that was removed from children’s sleepwear or other untested or toxic flame retardants. There is no data to show these chemicals save lives.

Instead, consider buying furniture and baby products made of polyester, down, wool, or cotton, which are unlikely to contain added flame retardant chemicals. Please pass on this message about reducing toxics by avoiding TB117 labeled products containing foam.

Annalise is graduating form Stanford in June. This summer she will travel in England with her father, hike in the Pyrenees with me and travel in Spain with friends. In the fall, she plans to help with a research project on water and health in Nairobi, Kenya She was awarded a MAP Sustainable Energy Fellowship, ( http://www.maproyalty.com/fellowships.html), to help provide refugees and villages near the Burma-Thai border with sustainable water, sanitation and energy.

In case you missed Annalise’s hilarious updates and photos from her last summer in Ecuador doing research on potable water systems for her senior thesis, you can enjoy them on her blog: http://annaliseblum.blogspot.com/ The stories include her learning to live without running water, withstanding conversion to Evangelical Christianity, and being the honored guest at a hand-washing festival, all important skills for an aspiring environmental engineer specializing in water and sewage.

After high school, Annalise took a wonderful gap year and has made a website to help other students who want to take time off at and volunteer outside the U.S. http://www.freewebs.com/gapyearsite
The site has profiles of successful gap years and resources for volunteering internationally. If you can recommend good programs, or know someone who has taken a gap year and would like to write for the site, you can email Annalise at annalise@stanford.edu.

Joyce Eggington’s classic book on The Poisoning of Michigan by the flame retardant polybrominated biphenylether or PBB, commonly called Firemaster has been reissued. This toxic tragedy unwinds with the suspense of a detective novel.

The story begins in 1973 when the Michigan Chemical Corporation in error delivered poorly marked brown bags of Firemaster to the Michigan Farm Bureau. Employees there assumed that the bags contained the magnesium oxide supplement know Nutrimaster that had been ordered and mixed it into cattle feed to be delivered across the state. Only because one of the first farmers to lose his herd of dairy cows had incredible persistence and a degree in chemical engineering was the mystery of the poisoned animals eventually solved. By this time, the nine million residents of Michigan had been ingesting contaminated milk and meat for nearly a year. Eventually, millions of farm animals had to be destroyed, and humans with high levels of exposure had increased cancer and reproductive health problems.

A different mixture, with a similar name, Firemaster 550, is the major flame retardant being used in furniture and baby product foam across North America today. It is hard to believe that 36 years after The Poisoning of Michigan, we are still using chemical mixtures called Firemaster.

To order The Poisoning of Michigan from Amazon, go to

May 23, 2010, 7pm
A Woman’s Voice – Breaking Trail ¬ Molecules and Mountains
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley,
For information www.hillsideclub.org Phone: 510.848.3227

May 27
Grand Rounds, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
University of California, San Francisco

Friday, June 4, 2010,
1:00 – 2:00 pm
Halogenated Flame Retardants: Do the Fire Safety Benefits Justify the Risks?
Kalmanovitz Library, Rm. 366, UCSF
530 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA

June 20, 2010 3:00pm
Flame Retardants, Policy, and Public Health: Past and Present
4th International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Health
University of California San Francisco

June 22
Banquet Keynote for the Annual Meeting of the Pacific NW Section of the Scientific Association Dedicated to Excellence in Analytical Methods.
Tacoma Washington

27th ANNUAL HIMALAYAN FAIR May 29, 30 2010
The Himalayan Fair is continuing to bring the food, music, crafts and dances of the Himalayas to Live Oak Park in Berkeley. Please stop by my booth under the big tree northeast of the stage to help out and/or enjoy the entertainment. If you would like to volunteer at the children’s activities booth, contact Robin Blades robin.blades@gmail.com

All of the fair’s profits go directly to the Himalayan regions as donations to orphanages, medical clinics, schools, village water supplies, agricultural and child nutrition projects, and other Himalayan charities. I describe starting the Himalayan Fair after returning from the ten month long Great Himalayan Traverse in my memoir “Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life.”

For more information, contact Chandran Param at chandranparam@hotmail.com
or 510-869-3995 or visit the Himalayan Fair website at http://www.himalayanfair.net

We are slowly getting started on Facebook, but please do go to our site and become a fan. We will be posting more information there soon.


Kind and Compassionate Nepali Care-Giver Looking for Live-In Situation in the Bay Area
Maya (age 32), a certified Health Care-Giver (Nepal) with 3+ yrs as a live-in care-giver in Foster City, is available immediately for live-in care of an elder. Excellent references available. Please email Maya c/o wendylama@coastside.net and cc jyungmet@gmail.com or call Wendy at 650 560-0101.

To protect our health and environment, please consider sending a message via e-mail or regular mail that you support California Senate Bill 1291 (SB1291) to prevent toxic flame retardants in furniture and baby products such as samples below to:
1. Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee, State Capitol, Room 5050 Sacramento, CA 95814 Phone: (916) 651-4039 Fax: (916) 327-2188 senator.kehoe@sen.ca.gov

2. If you live in California, please cc your legislator who can be found at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html

3. Please also cc the author of the legislation, Senator Mark Leno at senator.leno@sen.ca.gov.

If you do not live in California, please send letters to the Senator Kehoe and Senator Leno, with a message such as, “My family avoids products with labels saying they that meet California flammability standards because they are likely to be polluted with toxic flame retardants. We don not want toxic California furniture or baby products in our homes.”

Here is some information to choose from. Use whichever paragraphs you would like in your letter.

Dear Senator Kehoe,

I am writing to register my strong support for Senate Bill 1291 and urge your support in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This legislation ensures that flame retardant chemicals are reviewed through the existing California Green Chemistry Initiative and that findings from any review are used to inform California flammability standards described in technical bulletins enforced by the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (the Bureau).

SB 1291 imposes minimal costs to the state because it builds on California’s existing process to evaluate potentially toxic chemicals used in consumer products known as the Green Chemistry Initiative.

I support this legislation because I am extremely concerned about the toxic and untested flame retardants that are being put into California baby products and furniture foam – pounds of toxic chemicals can be found in a single couch. I don’t want my family to be exposed to such chemicals in our products or our homes. Flame retardant chemicals and California flammability standards should be evaluated for their effectiveness and their hazard to our health.

Biomonitoring studies have detected toxic flame retardant chemicals in the body fluids and breast milk of nearly all Americans tested, with the highest levels found in Californians. Children have three to four times the levels of flame retardants in their bodies compared to their parents.

These chemical fire retardants, which come from the foam in our furniture, do not have a proven fire safety benefit. The chemicals increase smoke and carbon monoxide production, and thus may actually decrease fire safety. Superior fire safety, as well as non-toxic furniture, can be achieved through implementation of updated furniture performance standards that emphasize fabric based smolder resistance over foam based open flame resistance.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers have reported on the accumulation and adverse health and environmental properties of flame retardant chemicals. In animals, they are linked to cancer, birth defects, endocrine dysfunction, thyroid disruption, hearing deficits, reproductive dysfunction and neurological impacts, including decreased memory and learning, behavioral disorders, and hyperactivity.

After years of science documenting body burdens and attendant health effects of flame retardants in animals, emerging science shows an association with human health effects including longer time to pregnancy, lowered IQ in children, and an increase in cryptorchidism or undescended testicles. Transfer of flame retardants from the mother through the placenta to the developing fetus has been shown. This is of special concern for pregnant women and young children who are the most vulnerable to endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, mutagens, and neurological and reproductive toxicants. For these reasons, the California Medical Association recently passed a resolution recognizing the cumulative negative effects of flame retardants and called upon regulatory agencies to limit their use when possible (CMA Resolution 711-09).

Please support SB 1291 and protect our health and environment form toxic and unneeded flame retardant chemicals in our homes.



Please consider contributing to our work of stopping this requirement for unneeded and untested flame retardant chemicals and materials in our beds by making a donation at: www.greensciencepolicy.org/donate.

Please contact us 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

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Arlene Blum PhD
Visiting Scholar, Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Executive Director, Green Science Policy Institute
Telephone: 510 644-3164 Mobile: 510 919-6363
Web: www.greensciencepolicy.org, www.arleneblum.com