Pink Is Not Green: Companies That Support Fighting Cancer Should Not Use Chemicals That Cause It
Everyone remembers the Komen vs Planned Parenthood scandal from a couple years ago, right? To recap: Susan G. Komen for the Cure defunded Planned Parenthood because, in addition to providing breast health services, they also offer—gasp—contraception and abortions. While Komen eventually caved to public pressure and reversed their decision, the damage was done. The scandal outed Komen as a right-wing institution.
So it should be no surprise that Komen’s conservative culture extends beyond reproductive rights, that they also take positions that fly in the face of common-sense environmental sensibilities. A women’s health charity opposing access to reproductive health care is shocking, and the same charity taking anti-environment positions given that breast cancer increasingly linked to environmental causes is plain wrong.
Komen sells and endorses toxic pink ribbon products.
We are all exposed to a slew of toxic or hazardous chemicals in our daily lives. Companies regularly sell products that contain toxic or hazardous ingredients that can impact the health of consumers. While we’d all love to avoid products that have problem ingredients, the kind of attention and painstaking ingredient-list reading is not possible for most of us, which means that we are exposed to numerous harmful chemicals without our consent or knowledge. And pink ribbon products are no exception. Breast Cancer Action calls this practice pinkwashing.
Komen’s long list of corporate sponsors includes several companies that are selling a product which contains breast cancer causing ingredients, including Ford and American Airlines whose emissions are linked to increased risk of the disease, and Alhambra Water, which sells plastic water bottles emblazoned with pink ribbons—and that contain BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to breast cancer.
To be fair, Komen is not alone in their pinkwashing. Frustratingly, there are seemingly endless examples of this hypocritical practice, made possible by multi-million breast cancer charities happy to loan their name and pink ribbon stamp of approval to hazardous products.
Komen endorses fracking.
Fracking, the very controversial practice of using a mix of toxic and hazardous chemicals to extract oil and gas from deep underground can count Komen as a fan and supporter. Even though fracking fluid contains chemicals linked to increased risk for breast cancer.
In 2012, Komen partnered with Chesapeake Energy’s subsidiary, Nomac Drilling, for a pink ribbon-wrapped fracking rig in rural Ohio. And in 2013 and 2014, Komen again made a truly astounding partnership decision, this time with fracking company Baker Hughes, which was publicized with, I kid you not, pink drill bits “for the cure.”
When it comes to toxic chemical safety, Komen stays silent and rakes in the money.
It sounds wonky, but the legislative effort to pass chemical safety reform is the most promising, and potentially comprehensive effort to reduce the public’s exposure to toxic, cancer-causing chemicals. Of course, Komen is not only conspicuously absent, but has ties to chemical industry lobbyists who are standing in the way.
Some background for the non-wonks among us: Environmental and public health organizations have worked for years to update the ancient Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—tasked with enforcing it—acknowledges is woefully inadequate to address the seemingly endless list of toxic and harmful chemicals that we encounter with every day—from BPA in cans to flame retardants in furniture and phthalates in plastics.
Rather than lend their tremendous weight to pass chemical safety legislation, which just as easily could be called “cancer prevention” legislation, Komen counts as partners and sponsors organizations that are members of the American Chemistry Council. The ACC is a lobbying firm intent on undermining and derailing these efforts to ensure that toxic chemicals that can cause breast cancer remain under-regulated.
3M, which makes pink ribbon post-it notes, and Merck, a pharmaceutical company which does breast cancer research, are ACC member companies, and are also among Komen’s corporate sponsors. What’s worse is that the ACC and the industrial chemical industry has, so far, succeeded—as of early 2015, it appears that the conservative effort to quash meaningful TSCA reform is a success.
Komen’s smiling, cheerful brand, synonymous with the pink ribbon and “breast cancer awareness,” essentially serves as the mechanism for this deep environmental hypocrisy to play out. Nobody who cares about clean air, clean water or non-toxic consumer products should be giving Komen their time or money. Instead, there are plenty of great organizations that put women’s health first, and work to reduce our exposure to cancer causing chemicals—lets support them instead.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.