May 2017: You’re invited: Six Classes video launch


We hope you are enjoying a happy and healthy spring. We have been working hard on the upcoming online launch of our new short Six Classes videos. These videos should help you understand these chemicals of concern in everyday products and make better purchasing decisions. Join us on June 22, June 29, and July 7 for one-hour webcasts including the four minute videos and live conversations with scientists and thought leaders. Please register here, and share the invitation below with your friends and colleagues.

We are just back from our fifth annual six classes toxics reduction retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains. This very successful meeting focused on highly fluorinated chemicals, a class of chemicals where a lot is happening. For example, New York state announced they are prohibiting state agencies from purchasing food packaging containing highly fluorinated chemicals. At the retreat, the 24 participants from diverse fields developed coordinated strategies to limit the unnecessary use of this whole class of stain- and water-repellent chemicals. If successful, these strategies could reduce this most persistent and harmful class of chemicals in products and building materials. What an opportunity! We hope the short videos and this annual retreat will both contribute.

See below for a preview from one of the videos of steps you can take to reduce your own exposures.

This weekend is the 34th annual Berkeley Himalayan Fair, which I started in 1983-  after my ten-months-long walk across the Himalayas. Our current adventure in reducing harmful chemicals in our products and our world has similar qualities to this walk: vision, exploration, hard work, failure, persistence, and success.

Please check out our website here to learn more about the Six Classes and to register for the online video launch events.
Kind regards,
Arlene Blum, and the Green Science Policy team

JUNE 22, JUNE 29, JULY 6

What: Webcasts Premiering Four Minute Videos On Six Chemical Classes of Concern
When: 11am-12pm PDT; 2-3pm EDT; 8-9pm CET
June 22: Introduction, Highly Fluorinated chemicals, Antimicrobials
June 29: Introduction, Flame Retardants, Bisphenols & Phthalates
July 6:    Introduction, Solvents, Certain Metals
How: Register here
[email protected]
or call 510-898-1704

You are invited to join us for three webcasts featuring easy-to-follow short videos and conversations with distinguished scientists and thought leaders. You will learn more about the science of Six Classes of toxic chemicals, where they are used, why they are harmful, and what can be done.

Together we can reduce the use of harmful chemicals and improve health and environment worldwide. 

How to reduce your exposure to highly fluorinated chemicals
  • Choose textiles and carpeting without water- and stain-repellency.
  • Avoid food in contact with greaseproof packaging, such as microwave popcorn and some fast food.
  • Avoid personal care products with “perfluor”, “polyfuor,”and “PTFE” on the label.
  • Be wary of products labelled “PFOA-free” – they may contain similar fluorinated chemicals instead.
  • When possible, ask for products without highly fluorinated chemicals.

Do flame retardants increase the risk of thyroid problems?

Higher exposure to flame retardant chemicals may be linked to papillary thyroid cancer, according to a new Duke University review. Thyroid cancer is the fastest-increasing cancer in the United States with an increase of 270% in our population over the last 20 years. During a similar time frame the use of flame retardants in furniture, baby products, electronics and other household items has also greatly increased.

The flame retardant PentaBDE is similar in structure to a thyroid hormone called thyroxine. Exposure to PentaBDE has been associated with hormonal changes and thyroid problems in rats, mice, frogs and birds. “The Mystery of the Wasting Housecats” in this Sunday’s New York Times magazine explores the idea that flame retardants may be associated with the current epidemic of thyroid disease in cats. Due to their grooming behavior, cats have 10 to 100 times higher levels of flame retardants in their bodies compared to humans. The chemicals migrate from products into dust. When cats lick their fur, they are eating dust containing flame retardants.

Although PBDEs have been phased out, the replacements– both brominated and phosphate flame retardants– may have similar or even more potent hormone disrupting effects. Some good news is that, in part due to the work of our Institute and colleagues, flammability standards have changed so that flame retardants are no longer needed in furniture and baby products. Nonetheless their use continues to increase in electronics and building insulation.

More severe furniture standards may increase health risks

A college campus is a place of learning, but are furniture flammability standards potentially getting in the way of a healthy learning environment? A new study shows that colleges that follow more severe furniture flammability standards may be exposing students and residents to higher levels of harmful flame retardants.

Researchers collected dust from common areas and dorm rooms on two different campuses. Levels of certain flame retardants, including decaBDE and HBCD, were higher in dust collected from spaces furnished with TB133-compliant furniture. TB133 is a large open-flame test for upholstered furniture, and these flame retardants may be used in furniture fabrics, filling materials, or both.

TB133 is not currently required in most places in the U.S., and there is no data to support the use of such a standard in typical residential applications. Nonetheless, the National Fire Protection Association has approved the development of a new test method for furniture which could be similar to TB133. This could lead to prolonged use of even higher levels of toxic flame retardants in our furniture, house dust, and bodies without providing a safety benefit. Fortunately, fire fighters, NGOs, and scientists are working to prevent such a standard. Stay tuned.

From TVs to toys: Toxics from recycled TV casings found in children’s toys

The International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) tested 111 children’s products and found toxic flame retardants in many of them, including 96 rubik’s cubes from 26 countries. Most of the cubes contained OctaBDE, DecaBDE, or HBCD, which have been used as flame retardants in electronics casings. These flame retardants have been linked to IQ loss and behavioral issues and other developmental problems.

IPEN’s report called on the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (COP8), held from April 24- May 5, to eliminate exemptions that would allow plastics containing banned flame retardants to be recycled, and to lower allowable limits for OctaBDE, DecaBDE, and HBCD in recycled products. Unfortunately, the COP8 did not lower allowable limits or remove exemptions for recycling. However, DecaBDE was at last listed under the Stockholm Convention as a persistent organic pollutant.