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A Day in the Life at GSP: Veronica Chin

September 21, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new! Swapping old couches for new ones sounds simple enough. But when you’re doing it for twelve homes it gets complicated – phone calls, delivery trucks, door-knocking, hauling, assembling, more phone calls. Lots of phone calls.

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.

Veronica says, “It seems obvious that we should have this information but it hasn’t been done before. When we get the results, it’ll be the first time we can point to the numbers and see how flame retardant levels do or don’t change when furniture is swapped out.”

“It’s fun to be part of it. It’s the most community-oriented, in-the-field project I’ve worked on at GSP.” It’s also tangible. When the furniture flammability code was updated it was hard to know when and what the full impact would be. Now, two years on, Veronica can call a retailer and they can state with confidence that their furniture is made without flame retardants. (Though she went to stores and checked labels to verify.)

After graduating from UC Berkeley with degrees in Applied Mathematics and Chinese Language, Veronica worked at a nonprofit near Lima, Peru. She organized events and field trips, and developed math and reading curricula for local children. When she returned to the US, she joined GSP’s staff. 

Math and logic skills come in handy making sure the pieces fall together for our annual Flame Retardants + Beyond Symposium. Veronica is “Planner in Chief” for what she describes as “a great event, gathering experts from researchers to policymakers to manufacturers to fire fighters.” During breaks, people network and “that’s when new ideas and partnerships come up.” This year’s conference will be on Feb 10th at the UC Berkeley campus.

For another study, Veronica is collecting food packaging samples from cafeterias at large companies in the Bay Area. The samples are sent off to be tested for highly fluorinated chemicals. Armed with this information, and leveraging their purchasing power, we’re helping companies procure safer paper products for their employees.

Outside of work, summer in the Bay Area is great for Veronica’s hobbies – dragon boat racing on Lake Merritt, outdoor salsa dance parties in Oakland, and plenty of great spots in Berkeley for Friday happy hour with GSP friends.

Learn more about Veronica and the other Green Science Policy Institute staff here.