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.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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