For those whose lives have been touched by breast cancer, the month of October can be a difficult and painful time. Taking the time each year to acknowledge the impact of the disease and help raise awareness and funds for such an important cause seems a noble pursuit. What could be wrong with companies wanting to do their part?
In recent years, backlash over “pinkwashing” and the commodification of breast cancer has been growing. The pink tidal wave of money is nearly impossible to track, and while some survivors find “Pinktober” to be an uplifting time, others feel their disease is being exploited. Moreover, the medical community has voiced concerns that breast cancer awareness in and of itself provides little to no useful information or education about the disease to the public.
The History of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
In the early 1980s, the Susan G. Komen Foundation began hosting an annual Race for the Cure, handing out pink ribbons to participants. The idea for pink ribbons came from a woman named Charlotte Haley, whose sister, daughter, and granddaughter had breast cancer, and who used peach ribbons to call attention to less than adequate research funding. When The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded by the Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies in 1991, the organization adopted a pink ribbon as its symbol.
In October 1985, Breast Cancer Awareness Month was started as a partnership between the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, manufacturers of several breast cancer treatment drugs, and the American Cancer Society. The primary focus of the collaboration was to promote mammograms.
What Is “Pinkwashing”?
Similar to greenwashing, pinkwashing is when a company or organization promotes a pink product or pink ribbon product to indicate its commitment to the breast cancer community while at the same time producing products containing chemicals that are linked to the disease.
90% of breast cancer cases are likely caused by environmental factors. This includes exposure to dangerous chemicals like those found in conventional personal care products. On average, women use 12 such products every day, exposing themselves to 168 chemicals daily. That doesn’t include food or other household products that can contain similar dangerous ingredients.
Companies manufacturing products with known carcinogens can simply slap a pink ribbon on their toxic goods and put unsuspecting customers at increased risk of the very disease they’re claiming to raise awareness about.
How to Avoid It
1. Look for Transparency
If you’re planning to shop for the cause, look for companies who are transparent and up front about how your purchase will be beneficial. Which organization will receive the donation? How will the money be spent? We believe “awareness” is not enough, and that the focus should be on preventing this disease from striking in the first place. It’s why we are on a mission to knock dangerous toxic products off the shelf for good and replace them with safe, natural alternatives.
2. Look at Labels
Total transparency is so important to us; not just during the month of October, but all year long. Our friends at Keep A Breast have pledged not to partner with companies whose products could potentially be linked to cancer, and it’s a big reason why we selected them as our partner. If you’re not sure what’s in a certain product, you can check this list of the biggest pinkwashing offenders, or use the EWG’s Skin Deep database to check for known carcinogens in personal care products.