Policy expert, scientist avid mountaineer Arlene Blum to visit URI

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |

KINGSTON, R.I.- April 3, 2019- Accomplished scientist, biophysical chemist and mountain climber Arlene Blum will visit the University of Rhode Island to deliver a lecture titled “Mountains and Molecules” as part of the STEEP Training Core program.

The lecture will be held Wednesday, April 17 at 5 p.m. in the Hope Room of the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center, 45 Upper College Road, Kingston. The lecture is free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to RSVP at superfundsteep@etal.uri.edu.

STEEP (Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFASs) is a program that focuses on the negative implications of PFASs or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances. These chemicals first emerged in the 1950s in common household goods starting with Teflon and Scotchgard. While PFASs did not violate safety standards at the time, they have now emerged as high-priority environmental contaminants. The STEEP initiative characterizes sources of PFASs and figures out where they come from, where they are going and where they end up, both in humans and the environment.

During her doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Blum published a scientific paper on research that discovered halogenated flame retardants in 79 percent of baby products. The paper led to policy change and the banning of these chemicals and it earned Blum a spot in the California Hall of Fame. She is also the founder of the Green Science Policy Institute.

During her visit, Blum will discuss the use of and ways to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, including PFASs. In addition to being an accomplished scientist, Blum also led the first American- and all female- ascent of Annapurna I, which led to her writing Annapurna: A Woman’s Place.  

“Arlene Blum is an engaging speaker with an excellent track record for policy change and we are excited to welcome her to URI,” said Bongsup Cho, leader of the URI/Harvard Superfund STEEP Training Program and professor in the College of Pharmacy. “Blum publishing her paper on harmful chemicals in flame retardants is an excellent example of research translation, a major goal of STEEP. Our trainees are lucky to be able to meet with her on the day of her visit.”

STEEP is funded through a Multi Project Center Grant awarded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program. The central goal is to understand and break the link between chemical exposure and disease.

Researchers at URI and Harvard were awarded a Superfund grant two years ago. The program requires training, community engagement, research translation and aims to train the next generation of environmental health scientists. Learn more about STEEP.

Her books, Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, and Breaking Trail and t-shirts will be available for purchase during the event.

Olivia Ross, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and public relations major, wrote this press release.