Defense Bill Boosts Climate Resilience, Ends PFAS Foam Use

December 10, 2019

A sweeping defense bill would mandate phasing out by 2024 firefighting foam that contains chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems, and improve planning to protect military bases from natural disasters.…

Read more

Scientists Rebuff Industry-Funded Efforts to Weaken PFOA Health Protections

I recently attended a Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America meeting focused entirely on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). To a casual observer, it might have seemed like just another scientific conference. Powerpoint talks, coffee break, powerpoint talks, poster session, repeat.  But below the surface, the meeting was the latest battlefield in an escalating fight over environmental liabilities that could have multibillion dollar consequences for chemical manufacturers.…

Read more

From Science to Policy: Fighting Forever Chemicals

October 12, 2019

While working on his dissertation at the UC Berkeley School of Environmental Engineering, Tom Bruton had high hopes for developing a groundbreaking technology to break down toxic chemicals in groundwater. But in 2017, after years of painstaking development, his method proved less than effective.…

Read more

Sinister Synergists

Synergist chemicals keep a low profile, but they are a crucial part of flame retardants’ act: Think of them as Teller to flame retardants’ Penn. These little-known compounds don’t slow ignition on their own, but when used in combination with flame retardants, they help delay fire spreading by creating less-flammable chars or quenching chemical reactions. And we use a lot of them: While flame retardants can make up 15% of the weight of some plastic electronics cases, synergists can comprise another 10%.…

Read more

The Woman Who Got Bromine Out of Kids’ Pajamas Fears It’s Coming Back

August 27, 2019

Among the technical and sometimes arcane-seeming debates at this year’s meeting of the International Code Council was one that grew surprisingly emotional: whether building codes should allow the use of polystyrene insulation not treated with flame retardant in foundations, below a 3.5-inch concrete slab. At stake was a larger argument about whether some volatile elements, including bromine, are safer for human health if they’re part of longer chains of molecules. …

Read more