Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Polluters and Pinkwashers

I'm going to stir up a little controvery here and I'd love to hear your comments, even if you disagree. Post them below!
I find it amusing that so many companies are "donating" to "Breast Cancer." As if breast cancer was an institution in and of itself like manufacturers and sellers of pink ribbons everywhere would have you believe. First of all, how much are these companies donating? When you buy something with a pink ribbon, how much is going to a non-profit? 10%? 1%? And then, once the money filters through the non-profit, how much of your money is actually going to help a person with cancer? How much is going to drug companies? How much are paying the big salaries of the people who run the major non-profits? These "pinkwashers" add pink ribbons and such to products to make them look like they're a caring company. When, in fact, all the pinkwashing does is help them increase their profits.
Financials aside, there's another reason that these companies don't live up to the hype. Let's take a look at one example that showed up in my mailbox.

Amidst the slue of junk mail I received one day, an ad popped out at me: "Buy a Serta matress to support Breast Cancer!" Seemed nice enough. But let's think about this a minute....buy a mattress that's likely to contain chemicals like fire-retardant boric acid (that is commonly laced with carcinogenic arsenic), formaldehyde glue (a known carcinogen), bleached cotton that emits dioxin during manufacture, and carcinogenic tolulene finishing. All of these chemicals that can disrupt hormone function and lead to a higher risk of breast cancer....to support breast cancer!? Serta would do a lot more to stop breast cancer if they would just not add the chemicals to the matresses! But they know that adding a pink ribbon to the product makes it desireable to the unknowing public--and a lot cheaper than finding safer alternatives!

Then I remembered an earlier ad that I had seen from Ford Motor Company. They had a two-page spread in one of the "health" magazines about how they were raising awareness for breast cancer. They even had a whole line of clothing and accessories in pink that "supported breast cancer." Let's think about this one for a minute... According to the Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit organization whose mission is to eliminate the environmental causes for breast cancer, one of the largest environmental causes of breast cancer is tailpipe emissions. Exposure to certain pollutants, especially in a young girls life, can increase cancer risk later in life. So, if Ford really wanted to help stop breast cancer it would enforce stricter emissions standards on their vehicles. But, it's a lot easier and more profitable to sell a line of cute scarfs and t-shirts that make them look philanthropic.
Estee Lauder was one of the first companies to distribute pink ribbons, and now Avon has jumped on the bandwagon with a special lip balms and charm bracelets to help their "Cancer Crusade." Both companies have long refused to sign the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and continues to use hormone disrupting parabens and phlalates as well as formaldehyde donors like diazolidnyl urea. It's a vicious cycle that supports itself....buy the products that cause cancer, and then buy the products to increase cancer awareness.

From 2005 to 2006, the Campbell Soup company doubled their sales of Tomato and Chicken Noodle soup to the largest grocery chain, Kroger. How did they do this? They branded the soup with pink ribbons and donated $3.5 cents per can to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It only took them $250,000 in dontations to make an extra $3.5 million in sales. Now, there's nothing wrong with a company making profits--that's what they're obligated to their shareholders to do. However, once again, they're not really working to cure cancer. Soup cans contain a plastic coating called BPA. BPA is a known hormone disruptor, acting like estrogen in the body. The more a woman is exposed to estrogen, especially synthetic estrogens, the greater her cancer risk. But instead of spending money on finding a safer alternative for their can, it's easier to make a pink label donate to a non-profit and hand off to them the responsibility to find a cure.

And finally...A common sight in my house as a youth was a little basket full of pink yogurt tops. The pink inside of the little foil lid said that Yoplait would donate fifteen cents to the Susan G. Komen foundation. We did our duty, ate our yogurts, and sent in our tops. But what we didn't know was that yoplait uses yogurt from cows that are treated with rbST, recombinant bovine growth hormone. Our yogurts were laced with synthetic estrogens that ran their course through our bodies, increasing OUR risk for breast cancer. If yoplait really cared about cancer, they'd use organic milk, or at least rbST-free milk (not to mention all the refined sugar, artificial flavors, and sweeteners.) But it's easier and more marketable to have novel lids that people can interact with and feel like they're making a difference.

I don't want to say that we shouldn't donate to breast cancer foundations. It's a great and kind thing to do so. Many of them do a great job at funding reasearch and getting money to small cancer clinics. But I just wonder---if we didn't have all of these companies putting chemicals into our air, water, land, food and bodies, would we need all the breast cancer funding? Would we need the research, the studies, the drugs? The moral of the story is, the best thing to do is to give directly to the foundation or volunteer your time to the organization, or even a cancer patient in your life.

One organization I admire is the Breast Cancer Fund. Visit their website at www.breastcancerfund.org.

For more info on matress chemicals: http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/ask/mattress

For more info on cancer hypocrisy: http://www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org/

PBDE info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PBDE

For more info on chemicals in lotions to avoid: http://www.bubbleandbee.com/Chemical%20Database.html

Breast Cancer Fund: http://www.breastcancerfund.org/site/pp.asp?c=kwKXLdPaE&b=43969

BPA in cans and other products:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Propylene Glycol

Just a quickie this week...

I found this interesting. Ater my last TV appearance on Studio 5, the station received a very interesting message that they forwarded on to me:

"Yesterday, during your segment with Bubble and Bee, I had to shake my head when you talked about how some shower body washes contain the chemical propylene glycol. Your guest stated that it is a "penetration enhancer" and that it will go directly to your blood stream. I'm an airline pilot, based out of SLC, and the de-icing fluid that all airlines use to remove snow, frost and ice from their aircraft is mix of heated propylene glycol and water. For us, the propylene glycol is listed as a hazardous material. If you get it on your skin and don't wash it off, it will irritate the skin, and you will get ill when it is absorbed. Thanks for bringing up the information about this chemical in body washes. Also, thanks for hosting an informative show." --John, UT

De-icing fluid! I couldn't believe it! So what's next? Adding anti-freeze to our bodywashes? Gasoline to our fingernail polish? Well, actually, yes. Ethylene glycol is a "sister" chemical to propylene glycol and is a main component of anti-freeze. It's used in over 50 personal care products, including bodywashes by Suave and Jason, as well as in shampoos by Dove. Tolulene is a known carcinogen and a component of gasoline. It's in over 60 kinds of fingernail polish.

The moral to the story: read your labels! Because you never know what crazy things they're going to sneak in there!

To see our chemical-free shower gels (now with a new waterproof label!) click here!