In Episode 72 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 11, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Arlene Blum, environmental health activist, mountaineer and author of Annapurna and Breaking Trail.
Environmental health activist Arlene Blum
Blum works tirelessly to ban flame retardants from electronics, furniture and baby products. Flame retardants, which only provide a two- to three-second delay if ignited, are similar to PCBs and DDTs, toxic chemicals that were banned decades ago. They pose serious, long-term health concerns because they alter hormone levels, damaging reproductive organs, impairing thyroids and changing DNA. These chemicals continuously migrate out of products. In the case of couches, for example, they emit toxic dust even when no one is sitting on the couch.
California State Senator Mark Leno introduced several bills that would have both eliminated flame retardant chemicals and increased fire safety. Though they were sponsored by health organizations, firefighters and even the furniture industry, the manufacturing lobby successfully defeated those bills. Meanwhile, only food, drugs and pesticides are regulated by EPA. No other chemicals – not even asbestos – are regulated, even if they’re highly toxic and enter our bodies other than by mouth.
Blum is also the founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, which provides unbiased scientific data to government, industry and non-governmental organizations to facilitate informed decision-making about chemicals in consumer products. Through the organization, Blum taught a class at UC Berkeley about chemistry and policy.
How concerned are you about toxic chemicals used in furniture?