Arlene Blum and I are standing in an upscale furniture store in Berkeley. The showroom is full of brightly colored chairs and couches in purple, grey, and blue and upholstered with whimsical patterns and elegant modern lines.
Blum is the Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute, an independent research group that studies the chemicals used in household products. She’s a former chemist at UC Berkeley, where in the 1970s she studied flame retardants, including one called Tris that appeared to change DNA, and possibly caused cancer. Blum’s work got these chemicals removed from children’s pajamas, where they were commonly used at the time. Now, she’s trying to get them out of furniture.