Green Science Policy Institute

Berkeley, CA, United States

Green Science Policy Institute

Berkeley, CA, United States
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Schaider L.A.,Silent Spring Institute | Blum A.,Green Science Policy Institute | Blum A.,University of California at Berkeley | Andrews D.Q.,Environmental Working Group | And 5 more authors.
Environmental Science and Technology Letters | Year: 2017

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are highly persistent synthetic chemicals, some of which have been associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, and other health effects. PFASs in grease-resistant food packaging can leach into food and increase dietary exposure. We collected ∼400 samples of food contact papers, paperboard containers, and beverage containers from fast food restaurants throughout the United States and measured total fluorine using particle-induced γ-ray emission (PIGE) spectroscopy. PIGE can rapidly and inexpensively measure total fluorine in solid-phase samples. We found that 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard samples contained detectable fluorine (>16 nmol/cm2). Liquid chromatography/high-resolution mass spectrometry analysis of a subset of 20 samples found perfluorocarboxylates, perfluorosulfonates, and other known PFASs and/or unidentified polyfluorinated compounds (based on nontargeted analysis). The total peak area for PFASs was higher in 70% of samples (10 of 14) with a total fluorine level of >200 nmol/cm2 compared to six samples with a total fluorine level of <16 nmol/cm2. Samples with high total fluorine levels but low levels of measured PFASs may contain volatile PFASs, PFAS polymers, newer replacement PFASs, or other fluorinated compounds. The prevalence of fluorinated chemicals in fast food packaging demonstrates their potentially significant contribution to dietary PFAS exposure and environmental contamination during production and disposal. © 2017 American Chemical Society.

Hu X.C.,Harvard University | Andrews D.Q.,Environmental Working Group | Lindstrom A.B.,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | Bruton T.A.,University of California at Berkeley | And 9 more authors.
Environmental Science and Technology Letters | Year: 2016

Drinking water contamination with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) poses risks to the developmental, immune, metabolic, and endocrine health of consumers. We present a spatial analysis of 2013-2015 national drinking water PFAS concentrations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (US EPA) third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) program. The number of industrial sites that manufacture or use these compounds, the number of military fire training areas, and the number of wastewater treatment plants are all significant predictors of PFAS detection frequencies and concentrations in public water supplies. Among samples with detectable PFAS levels, each additional military site within a watershed's eight-digit hydrologic unit is associated with a 20% increase in PFHxS, a 10% increase in both PFHpA and PFOA, and a 35% increase in PFOS. The number of civilian airports with personnel trained in the use of aqueous film-forming foams is significantly associated with the detection of PFASs above the minimal reporting level. We find drinking water supplies for 6 million U.S. residents exceed US EPA's lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for PFOS and PFOA. Lower analytical reporting limits and additional sampling of smaller utilities serving <10000 individuals and private wells would greatly assist in further identifying PFAS contamination sources. © 2016 American Chemical Society.

Shaw S.D.,Marine Environmental Research Institute | Blum A.,University of California at Berkeley | Weber R.,Örebro University | Weber R.,POPs Environmental Consulting | And 8 more authors.
Reviews on Environmental Health | Year: 2010

Since the 1970s, an increasing number of regulations have expanded the use of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants. Many of these chemicals are now recognized as global contaminants and are associated with adverse health effects in animals and humans, including endocrine and thyroid disruption, immunotoxicky, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and adverse effects on fetal and child development and neurologic function. Some flame retardants such as poly brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been banned or voluntarily phased out by manufacturers because of their environmental persistence and toxicity, only to be replaced by other organohalogens of unknown toxicity. Despite restrictions on further production in some countries, consumer products previously treated with banned retardants are still in use and continue to release toxic chemicals into the environment, and the worldwide use of organohalogen retardants continues to increase. This paper examines major uses and known toxic effects of commonly-used organohalogen flame retardants, replacements for those that have been phased out, their combustion by-products, and their effectiveness at reducing fire hazard. Policy and other solutions to maintain fire safety while reducing toxicity are suggested. The major conclusions are: (1) Flammability regulations can cause greater adverse environmental and health impacts than fire safety benefits. (2) The current options for end-of-life disposal of products treated with organohalogens retardants are problematic. (3) Life-cycle analyses evaluating benefits and risks should consider the health and environmental effects of the chemicals, as well as their fire safety impacts. (4) Most fire deaths and most fire injuries result from inhaling carbon monoxide, irritant gases, and soot. The incorporation of organohalogens can increase the yield of mese toxic by-products during combustion. (5) Fire-safe cigarettes, fire-safe candles, child-resistant lighters, sprinklers, and smoke detectors can prevent fires without the potential adverse effects of flame retardant chemicals. (6) Alternatives to organohalogen flame retardant chemicals include using less flammable materials, design changes, and safer chemicals. To date, before evaluating their health and environmental impacts, many flame retardant chemicals have been produced and used, resulting in high levels of human exposure. As a growing literature continues to find adverse impacts from such chemicals, a more systematic approach to their regulation is needed. Before implementing new flammability standards, decision-makers should evaluate the potential fire safety benefit versus the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals, materials, or technologies likely to be used to meet the standard. Reducing the use of toxic or untested flame retardant chemicals in consumer products can protect human and animal health and the global environment without compromising fire safety. © 2010 Freund Publishing House, Limited.

News Article | February 22, 2017

Chemical manufacturers have agreed to pay $670 million in damages to people with cancer and other health harm from exposure to a recently phased-out highly fluorinated chemical. In a peer-reviewed feature article to appear February 22nd in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers highlight that thousands of related chemicals continue to provide water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmetics, cookware, food packaging, and other products worldwide. The researchers from Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States call for regulation of the entire class of highly fluorinated chemicals. Exposure to the most well-studied of these substances has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning in adults as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children. This class of chemicals does not break down--ever--and can remain in the environment for thousands of years. "I am concerned that researchers and regulators are continuing to focus on a few phased-out chemicals rather than the thousands of related substances in use today," said Dr. Ian Cousins, co-author of the paper and Professor at Stockholm University. "Unless we broaden our focus, future generations will be increasingly exposed via contaminated water, air, and food." "Is the convenience of water and grease resistance worth risking our health?" asked Dr. Arlene Blum of UC Berkeley and the Green Science Policy Institute. "Given their potential for serious harm, we must stop putting highly fluorinated chemicals into consumer products unless they are absolutely necessary." "The phased-out chemicals, which were found to be harmful, have been replaced by hundreds of related 'chemical cousins'," explains Tom Bruton of UC Berkeley and the Green Science Policy Institute. "Like the older substances, these new fluorinated compounds stay forever in the environment and may be similarly toxic." In the 2015 Madrid Statement, more than 200 scientists agreed that the production and use of highly fluorinated chemicals should be limited. "Due to the vast number of chemicals in this family, it is not feasible to evaluate all of them one at a time," says Dr. Jamie DeWitt, a co-author of the feature and Associate Professor at East Carolina University. The chemical industry claims the replacements for the phased-out chemicals are safe because many do not build up in humans like the old ones did. Nonetheless, we are constantly exposed if these chemicals are in the food we eat or the water we drink," explains Dr. Christopher Higgins, a co-author of the paper and Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines. "Current data suggest that the replacement chemicals are just as likely--if not more likely--to end up in our drinking water and in our crops due to contamination of soil and water." These chemicals travel the world in water and air currents and can now be found in the ocean depths, mountain tops and every living creature. "It is surprising and sad that the planet, all people and all wildlife are contaminated with highly fluorinated chemicals," said Blum. "It is indeed 'a small world after all' when it comes to toxics." Some good news is that a number of leading retail brands including IKEA, Crate and Barrel, H&M and Levi Strauss are eliminating all highly fluorinated chemicals from their products. And Target and GoreTex just announced they are also beginning the process of removing them. "We are using these chemicals in a wide range of applications where they are non-essential," says Dr. Zhanyun Wang, lead author of the article and Senior Scientist at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. "Maybe we need them for a Himalayan expedition, but do we really need them in our surf shorts or our blue jeans?" he asks. "The public should be involved in defining 'essential' and 'non-essential' uses, and the chemical industry needs to develop safer alternatives for essential uses." Available for Interviews for A Never-Ending Story of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs)?: C8 Science Panel with probable links to human disease here The Green Science Policy Institute provides unbiased scientific information to government, industry, and non-governmental organizations to facilitate more informed decision-making about chemicals used in consumer products in order to protect health and environment worldwide.

Babrauskas V.,Fire Science and Technology Inc. | Lucas D.,Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Eisenberg D.,Development Center for Appropriate Technology | Singla V.,Green Science Policy Institute | And 3 more authors.
Building Research and Information | Year: 2012

US building codes balance the consideration of hazards to public safety, health and general welfare. Current codes require foam plastic insulation materials to have both protection by a thermal barrier and compliance with Steiner Tunnel test requirements. The Steiner Tunnel test is met by adding flame-retardant chemicals to the foam. Studies demonstrate that the Steiner Tunnel test does not give reliable fire safety results for foam plastic insulations. Foams that meet the Steiner Tunnel test still pose a fire hazard if used without a code-mandated thermal barrier. Insulations protected by a thermal barrier are fire safe and the use of flame retardants does not provide any additional benefit. Evidence is examined of the health and ecological impacts from the added flame-retardant chemicals. Changing the building codes could prevent health and environmental harm from the toxicity of these substances without a reduction in fire safety. Plastic foam insulations that are protected by a thermal barrier should be exempted from the Steiner Tunnel test and the need to use flame retardants. This change would align US codes with code regulations in Sweden and Norway and ensure the fire safety as well as improve health and environmental impacts. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Babrauskas V.,Fire Science and Technology Inc. | Blum A.,University of California at Berkeley | Blum A.,Green Science Policy Institute | Daley R.,Green Science Policy Institute | Birnbaum L.,U.S. National Institutes of Health
Fire Safety Science | Year: 2011

The extensive use of chemical flame retardants to meet the California Furniture Flammability Standard Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) [1] provides an example of the need for consideration of environmental impacts of fire safety interventions before they are implemented. Flame retardants are currently being used in products with high levels of human exposure without adequate toxicological testing. For example, flame retardants commercially used to meet TB117 have been found to have negative impacts upon human, animal, and environmental health [2] and notably, the TB117 standard has not been shown to have a measurable fire safety benefit. Both the unintended adverse impacts and the lack of fire safety benefits of California TB117 are discussed in detail. © 2011 INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR FIRE SAFETY SCIENCE.

Maley A.M.,Hope College | Falk K.A.,Hope College | Hoover L.,Hope College | Earlywine E.B.,Hope College | And 5 more authors.
Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms | Year: 2015

A novel application of particle-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) has been developed to detect the presence of chlorinated and brominated flame retardant chemicals in polyurethane foams. Traditional Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) methods for the detection and identification of halogenated flame retardants in foams require extensive sample preparation and data acquisition time. The elemental analysis of the halogens in polyurethane foam performed by PIXE offers the opportunity to identify the presence of halogenated flame retardants in a fraction of the time and sample preparation cost. Through comparative GC-MS and PIXE analysis of 215 foam samples, excellent agreement between the two methods was obtained. These results suggest that PIXE could be an ideal rapid screening method for the presence of chlorinated and brominated flame retardants in polyurethane foams. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Yi-Balan S.A.,University of California at Berkeley | Yi-Balan S.A.,Green Science Policy Institute | Amundson R.,University of California at Berkeley | Buss H.L.,University of Bristol
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta | Year: 2014

We examined the terrestrial sulfur (S) cycle in the wet tropical Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF), Puerto Rico. In two previously instrumented watersheds (Icacos and Bisley), chemical and isotopic measurements of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and S were used to explore the inputs, in-soil processing, and losses of S through comparison to the N cycle. Additionally, the impact of soil forming factors (particularly climate, organisms, topography and parent material) on S cycling in this system was considered. Atmospheric inputs (δ34S values of 16.1±2.8‰), from a mixture of marine and anthropogenic sources, delivered an estimated 2.2g S/(m2yr) at Icacos, and 1.8g S/(m2yr) at Bisley. Bedrock N and S inputs to soil were minimal. We estimated a hydrologic export of 1.7±0.1g S/(m2yr) at Icacos, and 2.5±0.2g S/(m2yr) at Bisley. Stream baseflow S isotope data revealed significant bedrock S in the hydrologic export at Bisley (with a distinctive δ34S values of 1.6±0.7‰), but not at Icacos. Pore water data supported the co-occurrence of at least three major biological S-fractionating processes in these soils: plant uptake, oxidative degradation of organic S and bacterial sulfate reduction. The rates and relative importance of these processes varied in time and space. Vegetation litter was 3-5‰ depleted in 34S compared to the average pore water, providing evidence for fractionation during uptake and assimilation. Out of all abiotic soil forming factors, climate, especially the high rainfall, was the main driver of S biogeochemistry in the LEF by dictating the types and rates of processes. Topography appeared to impact S cycling by influencing redox conditions: C, N and S content decrease downslope at all sites, and the Bisley lower slope showed strongest evidence of bacterial sulfate reduction. Parent material type did not impact the soil S cycle significantly. To compare the fate of S and N in the soil, we used an advection model to describe the isotopic fractionation of total S and N associated with downward movement of organic matter in both dissolved and solid fractions. This model worked well for N, but the assumption of a constant fractionation factor α with depth failed to describe S transformations. This result revealed a fundamental difference between N and S cycling in these soils, indicating an apparent greater sensitivity of S isotopes to fluctuating redox conditions. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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