Thinking before pinking | Pesticide Action Network
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Thinking before pinking

Kristin Schafer's picture

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the public conversation has been noticeably different this year. I've heard much more talk about chemicals that increase cancer risk — and what can and should be done to prevent breast cancer — than talk about raising awareness. It's about time.

I've also seen a new eyes-wide-open awareness of how absurd it is for companies that produce or sell cancer-causing products to wrap themselves in pink for the month. (I think it was the pink fracking drill bit "for the cure" that finally broke through the noise.) Think Before You Pink has been a core campaign message of our friends at Breast Cancer Action for many years, and it's a message we stand firmly behind. It's high time to move beyond pinkwashing.

The fact is, everyone knows breast cancer is a serious problem. There are few among us who don't have friends and/or family that have been affected. I know I do — and honestly, it makes me furious. Because we've understood for many years now that one of the drivers of the breast cancer epidemic is exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, including several common pesticides.

From awareness to prevention

Here's what I wrote in my Pink ribbons for prevention blog back in 2011:

Getting pesticides off our farms and out of our diets is one path toward prevention. Scientists link exposure to many pesticides — especially in adolescence while mammary glands are developing — to increased risk of breast cancer later in life.

According to the President's Cancer Panel, "girls exposed to DDT before they reach puberty are five times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age."

At PAN, we wholeheartedly support the standing call from our friends at the Breast Cancer Fund to officially make October Breast Cancer Prevention month.

Just imagine if some fraction of the profits from all the pink chotchkies sold in October were earmarked for prevention. Not only would it would shine a bright spotlight on the absurdity of pinkwashing, it would advance the important work of creating a breast cancer-free economy.

Let's do that.

Photo: iStock Photo

Kristin Schafer
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peacecookie's picture
peacecookie /

Correct me if I am wrong, but hasn't it been shown that red dye is cancerous?  All these pink products are made with red or pink dye, toxic chemicals, which cause breast and other cancers!  They should not be representing a cure for anything!

BioPesticide Analyst's picture
BioPesticide Analyst /

If you look at Pink Ribbon posters, you'll note that the big sponsors probably have a lot at stake here given that their products probably cause breast cancer
- companies selling sugar-laden, rGBH-tainted yogurt products (Yoplait)
- companies that finance (Bank of America) the takeover of our local, healthy food system by agribusiness to enable them to sell us cheap calories and processed food, driving up rates of obesity, implicated as a cause of breast cancer
- companies that profit from the automobile-centric (Ford), sedentary society that we've created without walkable communities - further driving up both environmental pollution and obesity 
- companies that profited by producing and dumping toxic, cancer-causing pollutants into the environment (GE) and that also happen to make mammogram machines (GE)
- companies selling bleached paper products, resulting in pollutant discharges to waterways

Kristin Schafer's picture

Kristin Schafer is PAN's Executive Director. With training in international policy and social change strategies, Kristin has been at PAN for over 20 years. Before taking on the Executive Director role, she was PAN's program and policy director. She has been lead author on several PAN reports, with a particular emphasis on children's health. She serves on the Policy Committee of the Children's Environmental Health Network. Follow @KristinAtPAN