Science & Policy Blog: Science

A Day in the Life at GSP: Veronica Chin

As Program Associate, Veronica Chin leads GSP’s role in the Foam Furniture Replacement Study. The “Dust Study,” as we call it, replaces old furniture containing flame retardants with new furniture without those chemicals for low-income families in the Bay Area. In collaboration with UC Davis and Biomonitoring California, we are testing the old furniture for chemical content, and measuring levels of flame retardants in house dust over time.…

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Trading Health for Small Conveniences?

“Stain-resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal” is how journalist Callie Lyons describes a highly fluorinated chemical called C8. When C8 was released into the air and water supply near processing plants in the mid-Ohio Valley, tens of thousands of people became seriously ill, with a range of health problems including cancer, liver malfunction, thyroid disruption, obesity, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and lower birth weight and size. The disturbing results of this large-scale inadvertent human study led to the recent phase-out of…

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Phthoughts on phthalates: odd spelling, clear problem

Have you ever heard of phthalates or DEHP? I hadn’t either, until I read a recent US study that monitored nearly 800 pregnant women and found that exposure to a common household chemical called DEHP may alter infant boys’ genitals before birth, along with potentially being linked to a host of other health problems. In 2008, the US issued a nationwide ban on DEHP and two other phthalates (DBP and BBP) in children’s toys at levels higher than 0.1%; the…

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To be, or not to be, BPA-free

When consumer outcry got loud enough and states started their own bans, manufacturers stopped using bisphenol-A (BPA) in some baby products. In 2012, the FDA took limited action – no BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula cans. Thus, the “BPA-free” craze was born! Unfortunately, products that boast “BPA-free” may contain bisphenol-S (BPS), BPA’s less studied chemical cousin. Bisphenols, such as BPA and BPS, are found in polycarbonate plastics in products like sports bottles (the hard, transparent stuff),…

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Phosphate flame retardants: Bad to the bone?

If you go to the CDC’s ToxGuide it will tell you that data suggest Phosphate Ester Flame Retardants are widely distributed throughout the human body. You’ll also find this: Normal human levels? No data available Biomarkers? There are no biomarkers that can be used to quantify exposure… Level in air? No data… Levels in sediment and soil? No data… Read ToxFAQs and you’ll find “there is not enough data” to determine if they produce cancer in humans (though increases in…

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HBCD is on the way out – but use of questionable alternatives will persist

This week, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. But internationally, countries that have signed the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants have a different reason to give thanks: the amendment adding HBCD (hexabromocyclododecane) to Annex A (Elimination) takes effect today. Under Annex A of the Convention, countries have up to five years to eliminate uses of HBCD in plastic foam building insulation, and any insulation materials containing HBCD during that phase-out period will need to be labeled. HBCD is a persistent,…

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Bacteria get an image makeover

In the 1963 animated film The Sword in the Stone, two wizards face off in a climactic duel, transforming themselves into an increasingly fearsome series of creatures in a magical arms race. In the end, the clever Merlin defeats his rival, the Mad Madam Mim, with an unexpected tactic. Mim’s mighty dragon is no match for Merlin’s lowly microscopic germ. This victory helps the film recast the legend of King Arthur as a story about the end of medieval superstition…

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Textbook of Children’s Environmental Health brings issue into clear focus

Children’s environmental health is my passion and the reason I work at the Green Science Policy Institute. Much of the Institute’s work is aimed at protecting children from exposure to harmful flame retardants and other toxic chemicals, and I am grateful to be a part of this effort. Although I am unsure if I will ever have my own children, I believe that all people have the right to undisrupted development and the environmental means to a high level of…

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