Moving Past Pinkwashing: Breast Cancer Prevention Means Eliminating Toxics

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Today I bought a yogurt and opened it up to find a pink ribbon on the back of the lid next to the words “Breast Cancer Awareness Month”.  For the last few years, these pink ribbons have been omnipresent in everything from media to food product packaging during the month of October.  So, are all these companies jumping on the “cure” bandwagon because of a genuine concern over getting rid of the disease, or is all this just the result of “pinkwashing”?  “Pinkwashing” is a modern term describing companies that promote pink-ribboned products even when they contain potentially harmful chemicals linked to cancer and/or other illnesses.  Yes, that’s right—just about any company can slap a pink ribbon on their product to make us believe that they make healthy items, regardless of whether their products contain toxic ingredients.

As we are all too familiar with here at CEH, many of the thousands of chemicals that are present our food, air, and water, and many of the consumer products that we use everyday have been linked to cancer in study after study.

The Breast Cancer Fund’s recently released study, State of the Evidence 2010: The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment, shows how strongly environmental factors are linked with breast cancer.   Pesticides in food, solvents and compounds in household cleaning products, BPA in food containers, flame retardants in furniture, and synthetic hormones in everything from meat to cosmetics all build up in our environments, and our bodies, and can seriously affect our health.

Breast Cancer Awareness shouldn’t just be about consciousness of the disease, or even finding a cure—it should be about prevention.  It’s time to get rid of pinkwashing and get to root of the problem.  What’s being done to prevent breast cancer?  Prevention isn’t just about early detection—it’s about considering and identifying the actual causes of cancer.

We must act now to prevent industries from manufacturing their products with toxic chemicals.   In the United States alone, over 85,000 man-made chemicals are registered for use, and less than 10% of those chemicals have actually been tested for safety.

Right now, there are steps we can take personally, as well as on the legislative level, to create a real, influential national plan to eliminate harmful chemicals from consumer products, workplaces, and the environment, to prevent breast cancer and other diseases associated with toxic exposures.

1.  Learn how you can avoid BPA in food containers, especially in baby products and during pregnancy.

2.   Learn how to make your own household cleaning products as an alternative to chemical-laden products.

3.  Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):  Right now, we have the opportunity to change the way the United States practices chemical regulation using a backwards system—chemicals can be used in consumer products without being tested for safety first.  But we have the opportunity to change that right now.  New legislation known as the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 calls for safety testing before products are marketed (a rule Europe has already been practicing for nearly a decade).  You can sign on to support the Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 in just 30 seconds!

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Ali manages the website and coordinates the online communications of CEH. She works with the communications and development staff to create messaging strategies and public education content for CEH’s supporters and online audience. A Bay Area native, Ali attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and Cultural Studies. This allowed her to live abroad in Argentina, where she studied Latin American history and learned valuable Spanish language skills. Ali is thrilled to be part of an organization that advocates for healthy communities so effectively.