By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Scars from a double mastectomy are displayed on Tracie Marie’s Instagram, serving as a visual reminder of the harsh effects of breast cancer.
Although she is proud to be among survivors, she is upset over companies that profit from the disease in corporate advertising and promotions - pinkwashing.
“The majority of people believe that Breast Cancer is a pink ribbon, a pink Pom Pom, a pen with a pink ribbon, a tote with a pink ribbon, an encap at your local Walmart engaging you to be a ‘part of the cure,’” she posted. “First, a hard reality, you are not being part of the cure, you’re just throwing your money away to propaganda, uniforms for NFL cheerleaders, and kiosk after kiosk with items from handbags to ziplock bags. It’s all a hoax. They are not trying to fight the cure. Most of their funding goes to advertisement, six figure CEO salaries.”
The Breast Cancer Action (BCA), a watchdog for the breast cancer movement, coined the term pinkwashing in 2002. It is "a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time, produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease."
Several major companies have been accused of pinkwashing and of allegedly offering small donations as a cover up for their products contributing to the cause for breast cancer.
“One reason is that sometimes the same companies that claim to care about breast cancer are themselves producing, manufacturing and/or selling products that may actually increase the risk of the disease,” Karuna Jaggar, of the Sierra Club, wrote. “And every October, we call out the worst corporate pinkwashers. We’ve taken on multi-billion dollar companies making everything from pink fracking drill bits to KFC’s pink “buckets for a cure.”
This year, BCA targeted Ford Motor Company. The group delivered over 45,000 petition signatures to Ford Motor Company at their world headquarters.
Breast cancer activists are demanding the automaker “put the brakes on the breast cancer epidemic by no longer making vehicles that produce cancer-causing exhaust.”
“We see right through Ford Motor Company’s pink smoke screen to the truth,” BCA’s executive director, Karuna Jaggar said. “Ford’s Warriors in Pink program is just a feel-good attempt to distract from the company’s role in driving up the risk of breast cancer.”
According to the American Cancer Society about 268,600 women and 2,670 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the end of 2019. An estimated 41,760 women and 500 men will die from it.
“None of the hope, inspiration, and determination that Ford promises ‘to fuel’ will change these grim statistics as long as their cars and trucks continue to produce cancer-causing exhaust that exposes everyone to chemicals that increase the risk of breast cancer,” Jaggar said.
This month, the group is also calling out 3M for pinkwashing.
“3M says their pink products are a ‘reminder of a good cause’ even though their toxic forever chemicals may increase the risk of breast cancer,” BCA members said. “Pretty pink ribbon Post-its don’t cover up the fact that 3M’s toxic PFAS may actually increase the risk of breast cancer. Join our 2019 Think Before You Pink® Campaign – Say Never to Forever Chemicals!”
Other companies that have been called out for pinkwashing include Kohl’s, Hooters, Oriental Trading, National Football League, agricultural companies using oil wastewater to irrigate food crops, Estée Lauder and cosmetic companies for the toxic chemicals in their products, and alcohol beverage companies.
While fundraising efforts to fight breast cancer intensify during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, healthcare officials say the best way to conquer the disease is through early detection and treatment.
Common signs of breast cancer are discovery of a new lump, swelling of all or part of the breast, skin dimpling, pain in the breast or nipple, discharge from the nipple and swollen lymph nodes.
Breast cancer risks can be lowered by doing the following:
•Get to and stay at a healthy weight. • Be physically active. • Limit alcohol. • Avoid tobacco.
Meanwhile, the BCA encourages all to avoid becoming a victim of pinkwashing and to join their 2019 Think Before You Pink® campaign.
“Women with breast cancer deserve to be able to trust the organizations they look to for support,” Jaggar said. It’s unconscionable to expose cancer patients to known and suspected toxins, which can increase their risk of a second cancer and which may interact with some common treatments.”