Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Pinkwashing

As a disclaimer for this post, I should share with you that for the past 3 years I have volunteered my time with the CBCF Run for the Cure.  It has been an amazing experience, and I believe that the CBCF is taking great strides in the field of breast cancer research to advance early detection, promote access to treatments, and hopefully will one day find a cure.

Now, with that out there, I do find the pinkwashing debate quite interesting.

Pinkwashing: a term used to describe the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer while engaging in practices that may be contributing to rising rates of the disease.

The range of pink products is extensive.  From ballpoint pens, to coffee mugs, lipstick and sadly pink buckets of KFC, you could paint your whole day pink if you really wanted to.  The concern arises from the ethics of pink labeling products that include well know carcinogens.  This article highlights just some of the ingredients pink pushing companies like avon, estee lauder and revlon include in their satin pink lipsticks and glossy nail polishes.  Proctor and Gambles brands, including Cover Girl, Max Factor and Infusium (among others), contain ingredients we should all be careful to steer clear of.

  1. Phthalates endocrine disruptors. Used as softeners for oily substances in perfumes, and additives to hairsprays.

  2. Formaldehyde This preservative is common in everything from toothpaste to shampoo.  It is also a known carcinogen.

  3. Parabens we talked about these here!

  4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate These foaming agents found in soaps and shampoos are skin irritants and can enter the heart, brain and liver through your skin, where they accumulate in your organs.

  5. Toluene Generally found in nail polish and hair dye, Toluene is toxic to the nervous system, and breathing it in can cause dizziness and headaches. High exposures can lead to birth defects and miscarriage.

  6. Triethanolamine TEA has been known to cause allergic reactions, irritations and drying out of the hair and skin. With consistent use, TEA is absorbed into the body and accumulates, where it can become toxic.

  7. Hydroquinone linked to cancer and the unsightly skin condition, ochnronosis. and other cosmetics products.


Further attention was brought to this issue on the big screen in Pink Ribbons, Inc.
a feature documentary that shows how the devastating reality of breast cancer, which marketing experts have labeled a “dream cause,” has been hijacked by a shiny, pink story of success.

The debate rages on as multi national companies are questioned about how much money they are actually contributing to breast cancer charities? And most importantly, why do they continue to use chemicals linked to cancer in their pink ribbon products?

What can you do?

  1. Avoid toxic pink ribbon products, not only to send a message to the companies, but also to protect your own health.  There are plenty of pink ribbon items that won't come without health risks.

  2. Make direct monetary contributions to breast cancer or cancer charities in general where you can ask questions upfront about where your money is going.

  3. Search out ethical pink products. This Ecofabulous guide to eco-friendly pink ribbon purchases is a great starting point.

  4. Help out in non-monetary ways.  Spend time volunteering, helping canvass for early detection screenings, or sometimes even calling up survivors to check-in and see how they are doing.


Do I think we should still be involved in pushing the agenda to find a cure? Absolutely! I just think we need to move to the next step in this journey of making sure all the hard work that has been put into these campaigns continues to advance ,and we demand the promotion of health and awareness for everyone involved.

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