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How to be a non-toxic New Yorker


Toxic Baby
Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, Filmmaker, Toxic Baby

After the birth of her first child, Penelope Jagessar Chaffer embarked on a journey to find out more about the 80,000 largely unregulated chemicals on the market, many of which are ingested through personal-care products (including children’s products) and can be passed from mother to child in utero.

It ultimately led her to have her own blood tested for toxic chemicals, and she was horrified by the results.

Now, she’s sharing that journey with the world through Toxic Baby, her new film that will start screenings in November, and with New Yorkers at a talk at the YinOva Center next week.

Chaffer traveled across nine time zones during the making of Toxic Baby, interviewing 19 key scientists at the forefront of chemical body-burden research.

She looked at hundreds of common chemicals—from parabens to pthalates. And while her focus was on how to protect children, what she found affects everyone, from fetus to old age, she says. “You and I will have 30,000-50,000 chemicals in our bodies that our grandparents didn’t,” she explained at a TED talk last winter.

“It’s hard enough being a parent, and then you need a PhD in chemistry to understand what’s in an everyday product,” Chaffer says. “I felt like Alice in Wonderland trying to figure out what this really meant for me as a person, and my family.”

While her ultimate goal is to fight for better chemical regulation through legislation, Chaffer’s talk at the YinOva Center will focus on identifying some of the most common sources of toxins, and realistic, every day things that New Yorkers can do to avoid them.

“We should be protected, but at the minute, we’re not,” says Chaffer. “So, it’s really about how we can live the life we’re living now in a less toxic way.”

The Ultimate Guide to Being a Non-Toxic New Yorker, Thursday, October 27, 7:00 p.m. The YinOva Center, 74 East 11th Street (between Broadway and University).

Admission $5, includes light refreshments and a raffle ticket for screening of Toxic Baby at the Crosby Street Hotel (two tickets).

To RSVP, call the Yinova Center: 212-533-2255