October brings a plethora of pink, with the promise of raising awareness about breast cancer and driving donations for finding a cure.
But a pink fracking drill bit just might take the cake for the craziest breast-cancer awareness stunt we’ve seen yet. The pink drill bit accompanies a $100,000 donation to the Susan G. Komen foundation from Baker Hughes, a large hydraulic fracturing service company. This is the second consecutive year the company has made a $100,000 donation to Komen.
If you were wondering if the bit is just for show, there's a video of men actually using the thing to drill.
It’s arguably a pretty offensive case of pinkwashing, the phenomenon of companies that make cancer-causing products eagerly touting pink ribbons.
While we don’t know the exact cause of breast cancer, we do know that environmental exposure to certain chemicals is associated with a higher risk. There are over 700 chemicals commonly used in the fracking process, which regularly leak and contaminate groundwater. “Of these, dozens are listed as ‘chemicals of concern’ because of their link to myriad health harms, and several are known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors that have proven links to breast cancer,” writes the advocacy organization Breast Cancer Action.
So, while it would be scientifically unsound to say that fracking causes breast cancer, we do know that fracking is pumping out chemicals like benzene and toluene that are linked to higher levels of risk. That’s not something that painting a drill bit pink is going to fix.
Jeanne Rizzo, the President & CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, finds the pink drill bit to be a hypocritical marketing campaign. "There’s a message with the drill bit that says ‘fracking is okay.’ "
“It’s concerning because it’s ignoring the root causes of the disease,” Rizzo told TreeHugger. “We’re concerned about the toxic chemicals in fracking, we’re concerned about worker exposure and we’re concerned about the carcinogens that get into the water in the process.”
Also upsetting is the fact that fracking companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their chemical cocktail, which is currently considered a trade secret. That makes monitoring potential contamination at fracking sites difficult. Fracking is also exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
A number of breast cancer prevention groups have fracking-related campaigns. Breast Cancer Fund supports the full disclosure of the fracking chemicals and removing fracking’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Breast Cancer Action is calling for a full ban on fracking.
Rizzo stressed that she doesn’t want to take money away from efforts to find a cure, yet she hopes that preventative steps are not overlooked. She said her organization “wouldn’t align with a company that is promoting fracking.”