CONTACT: Ana Mascareñas Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA)
213-689-9170, cell 323-743-3241, Stephenie Hendricks, National Work Group for Safe Markets, 415-258-9151. Experts with direct contact info listed below.

June 16, 2011

Toxic or “Toxie”?

Wacky Hollywood Tackles Serious Issue
with Red Carpet Performance

(Hollywood) Red carpet events are common in Tinsel Town, but none quite like “The Toxies.” Costumed characters – actors hired to “be” toxic chemicals – emerge from limousines to walk down the proverbial red carpet to receive “awards” for the harm they are doing to the American public.

The Toxies is led by  Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA) and Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy with groups across the country. Now in its 2nd year, the Toxies has expanded to include satellite events from Oakland to Minnesota and New York, and across the globe in Australia, Canada and more. Environmental health and justice groups and the concerned members of the public watching live on-line at and presenting their own “Toxies” to local chemical pollutants.

Cancer survivor Fran Drescher, whose organization Cancer Schmancer supports the Toxies, sent a video message available on our website stating: “Thanks to all of the chemicals in our environment that trigger thousands of cancers each and every year, you’ve got Cancer Schmancer working day and night to kick your little tuchuses!”

“Some chemicals taking home ‘Toxies’ are becoming more and more familiar to consumers,” says Bobbi Chase Wilding of Clean NY. “For example, bisphenol A has become a household tongue twister since parents came wise to its use in baby bottles.  BPA deserves its “Least Sexy Performance” award because it continues to invade our lives through canned foods, reciept paper, plastics and more.  BPA, you’re a big turn-off.  We can find safer chemicals than you!”  BPA is linked to breast cancer and infertility, and is found in the bodies of most Americans.

Nominated for ‘Super Hot Mess’ is  halogenated flame retardant chemicals, because they are in everyone’s bodies and linked to lower IQ, cancer, genital malformations in babies, and infertility.  “Super Hot Mess’ is definitely the right award for Halogenated Flame Retardant.  They can’t make up their mind what form to take!  No sooner do we get action on some, like PBDEs, than they’re back as chlorinated tris and other guises, said Kathy Curtis of Environmental Health Fund. “We’ve gotten wise to their quick change tactics, and see them for what they truly are: obsolete dinosaur chemicals that truly are a ‘Super Hot Mess’.”

Tracey Brieger, Co-Director of Californians for Pesticide Reform says, “methyl iodide has proven itself as the best candidate for ‘Worst Replacement Actor,’ hands down. Formerly used in labs by scientists to create cancer, methyl iodide is now in widespread use as a pesticide. It’s way more toxic than its predecessor methyl bromide, that created holes in the ozone layer. This award has been in the bag for methyl iodide since its corporate promoter Arysta bullied California regulators to ignore independent scientific studies and approve the gas as a pesticide in December, despite its ability to contaminate water and cause late term miscarriages.”

Another chemical making recent news stories, named by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a carcinogen, is formaldehyde. Because it’s been found in Brazilian Blowout and other hair straightening products, formaldehyde is nominated for the “Worst Hair Raising Performance” award. While FDA is delaying a response on formaldehyde, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration just released a formal warning to workers to avoid products that contain it. “We’re also worried about a child’s exposure to formaldehyde through products like baby shampoo and cribsheets because children are particularly vulnerable to early life exposure to toxins,” says Kathleen Schuler, co-director of the Healthy Legacy coalition in Minnesota.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics just issued a statement asking the federal government to protect children from the problem of toxic chemicals,” said Dr. Harpreet Malhi, a physician at  Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center in Downtown Los Angeles. “‘The Toxies’ is an engaging educational tool for doctors and patients to start the conversation about chemicals is our workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods.

“Environmental health protections in toxic chemical regulation is good for business,“ says David Levine from the American Sustainable Business Council. “Billions are spent on health care each year from chemical exposure linked illness, not to mention lost work. Our trading partners have better protections for their products than we do….in some cases, like bisphenol-A even China has better protections! If we reform our chemical regulations with environmental health protections strengthened, all businesses will have to play fair. It levels the playing field and creates opportunity for businesses who are doing the right thing.”

“Lifetime Achievement in Harm” nominee this year is Lead, the second time lead is being recognized for long lasting neurological effects. “We have known for centuries that lead causes neurological impairment and reduces IQ. Yet, thousands continue to be exposed to leaded paint in housing. This toxic legacy reminds us that we are often wrong about what we consider safe levels of exposure, there is no safe level for lead exposure.  “Low income communities and children of color are at greater risk of exposure to lead; we cannot expect children to thrive and learn if we do not muster the political will to lower the action level on lead,” says Martha Dina Argüello of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.

While a worthy contender for an award in lifetime harm, mercury is nominated for the “Worst and Longest Running Performance.” “Mercury is a neurotoxin, yet it’s used to make skin lighteners, “ says Pamela King Palitz of Environment CA. “It’s also a by-product of fossil fuel emissions, and travels from smokestacks to the oceans, where it accumulates in tuna, swordfish and other fish we like to eat. The petrochemical industry is desperately fighting against mercury protections because it means they would have to clean up their emissions.”

“Body Burden” is the term used to describe long lasting chemicals that are in our bodies and stay there. The average baby is born with over 200 man-made chemicals in his or her body. This year’s favored nominee for “Worst Chemical Body Burden” goes to Dioxin.  “Few people realize that although efforts have been made to ban chemicals that leave dioxin as a “legacy,” there are plenty of contaminated communities, such as Midland, Michigan, where cancer and other illnesses linked to dioxin exposure persist,” says Mike Schade from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. “Recently EPA has been trying to issue a ruling on dioxin, but corporations such as General Electric that would be accountable for the contamination have been lobbying fiercely against protections from Dioxin.”

The “Worst Special Effects” nomination went to Perchlorate, a component of solid rocket fuel found in drinking water supplies in 26 states.  “Our children are most at risk,” says Andria Ventura of Clean Water Action. “The State of California has determined that even minute levels of perchlorate can be linked to irreversible impaired brain development, yet millions of Americans are drinking this contaminant every day.”

The “Most Washed Up” nomination goes to Triclosan- a pesticide found in many hand soaps. “This is an example of products hitting the marketplace before they have been adequately studied, “says Mia Davis from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Triclosan is linked to thyroid disease, resistance to antibiotics (and thus risk for “supergerms”), and cancer. It’s even found in toothpaste, and it just has to go!”

Perchloroethylene, or “perc” for short, is hoping to win the “Worst Dressed Award,” for its impacts on the nervous system, kidneys and reproductive systems. “Dry cleaning businesses all over the nation are switching away from perc,” says Gail Bateson from Worksafe, but the waste from this chemical remains in water systems in communities, contributing to the larger cumulative chemical exposure that our families are exposed to. With safer alternatives such as wet cleaning, there’s just absolutely no reason to keep perc around.”

The Toxies hopes to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our environmental health and the need for safer alternatives. Click on any of the partner groups below to find out more.

For More Info:

Available Issue Experts

Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility — Los Angeles. Spanish/English bilingual. Cell: 310.261.0073, Martha can address a variety of toxic chemical exposure issues — to communities of color, about educating physicians, and what has happened in California toward reforming chemical regulatory policy. She has been involved in the California Green Chemistry Initiative .She can address bad actors  Lead and BPA.

Kathryn Alcantar, CA Policy Director, Center for Environmental Health. Spanish/English bilingual. Cell: 415-694-9596, Kathryn can talk about the work going on at the state level to promote Green Chemistry and create an effective process to assess safer alternatives. Kathryn is the Campaign Director for CHANGE- a statewide coalition of almost 35 diverse organizations working to change chemical policy in CA for the protection of workers, children, and fenceline communities.

Arlene Blum PhD, Executive Director and Founder, Green Science Policy Institute. 510.644.3164, Arlene can address halogenated flame retardants and the efforts toward Green Chemistry solutions.

Cecil Corbin-Mark, Director of Policy Initiatives and Deputy Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT) in Harlem, New York, NY. 212.961.1000 ext. 303, Cecil can address environmental justice and chemical exposure issues.

Kathleen A. Curtis, Policy Director, Clean New York. 518.708.3922. Kathleen can address policy in various U.S. states on protecting environmental health from flame retardant chemicals.

Rebecca Daley, Green Science Policy Institute. 650.759.6461.  Rebecca can address halogenated flame retardants and policy around them.

Mia Davis, Co-Coordinator, Workgroup for Safe Markets and Campaign for Safe Comsetics 617.338.8131 ext. 201, Mia can address issues around bisphenol A markets and triclosan.

Pamela King Palitz, Environmental Health Advocate and Staff Attorney, Environment California. Cell: (925) 698-0293, Pam works to reduce Californians’ exposure to toxic chemicals. She can an address any questions regarding California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, the movement to remove toxic chemicals from nail salons, BPA, formaldehyde and mercury.

Jessica Liss, Program Coordinator, Cancer Schmancer., 646.957.5691. Jessica can address working at a women’s health organization with Fran Drescher and why Cancer Schmancer wanted to work with the Toxies to help with their message of prevention and becoming a well informed medical consumer.

Ana Mascareñas, Policy and Communications Coordinator, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA). 213-689-9170, cell:323-743-3241, Ana can discuss the concept behind “The Toxies”, BPA, Halogenated Flame Retardant and their recent California legislation.

Gail Bateson, Executive Director, Worksafe. cell: 510-439-6604, gbateson Gail is available to discuss workplace and worker chemical exposure issues, and “green” and “blue” collaboration to advance chemical policy reform. She is also available to address methyl iodide, particularly its recent registration approval in California.

Kathleen Schuler, Healthy Legacy.  612.382.5917,,. If she is not answering, contact Katie Rojas-Jahn,, (763) 226-4206. Kathleen can speak about chemical policy reform at the state level, especially in Minnesota. She can also be consulted Bisphenol A and especially the success of state laws in getting baby bottles and sippy cups with BPA off of store shelves. Kathleen is the co-director of Healthy Legacy, a Minnesota-based public health coalition working to phase out the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Michael Green, Executive Director, Center for Environmental Health. 510.655.3900 x302, Michael can speak to his 15 year journey to remove lead from children’s products through advocacy, education and litigation.

Mike Schade, Center for Health, Environment, & Justice. 212.964.3680 or Mike can address dioxin issues and market shifts around bisphenol A.

Christina Medina, Center for Environmental Health, 661.477.2760, Christina can speak about issues related to California toxics policy reform and the Green Chemistry Initiative. She is also the Program Coordinator of the Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE), one of the main groups presenting the Toxies.

David Levine, Executive Director, American Sustainable Business Council. 202.595.9302 The American Sustainable Business Council is a growing coalition of business networks committed to public policies that support a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy.

Dr. Harpreet Malhi, Physician, Eisner Pediatric & Family Center, Downtown Los Angeles. 213.505.5373. She can speak about environmental health exposures linked to health outcomes.

Daniella Russo, Executive Director, Plastic Pollution Coalition. 510.394.5772, Daniella can speak about issues pertaining to BPA in single-use plastics.