Pinkwasher: (pink’-wah-sher) noun. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures, and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.
Corporate giant 3M markets pink ribbon Post-its to raise awareness of breast cancer, but 3M also produces and uses PFAS, a toxic class of compounds known as forever chemicals that may contribute to breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Action calls this pinkwashing.
What are PFAS? Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large and ever-expanding class of highly fluorinated synthetic chemicals used to repel oil and water. Known for their extreme persistence, they are also called forever chemicals. PFOA and PFOS are two of the oldest and most well-studied chemicals in this group. These chemicals do not naturally break down over time.
There is no way to avoid exposure to PFAS and 98% of Americans have at least one PFAS chemical in their body. The drinking water of approximately 110 million Americans contains unsafe levels of PFAS, and the chemicals have been found in both breast and cow’s milk. PFAS are also found in food, consumer products, workplaces, and dust.
The weight of the evidence shows that PFAS may increase the risk of breast cancer. One of 3M’s own consultants warned that the chemical used for years in Scotchgard “is one of the strongest cancer promoters I’ve ever seen” and interferes with the ability of cells to communicate with each other. PFAS are known to cause some cancers and interfere with normal hormone functioning. In addition, PFAS have been shown to suppress the immune system, which can hinder the body’s ability to prevent rogue cells from growing into breast cancer. Even low dose exposure to PFAS changes the structure of the mammary gland and interferes with breastfeeding.
3M pioneered this dangerous class of chemicals and the company’s fortunes were built on the development, manufacture, and sale of PFOS and PFOA. Today, 3M is a $120 billion multinational corporation with profits driven by the development of newer PFAS compounds. For nearly seventy years, 3M has covered up the risks of PFAS from the public and regulators, protecting their profits at the cost of public health. One lawsuit charges 3M “maliciously conspired” with trade groups to conceal the chemicals’ toxicity. Through a range of delay and deny tactics, 3M prevented regulation, all the while pushing PFAS into new consumer products. As a result, current and future generations continue to be exposed to these dangerous chemicals. 3M has developed newer so-called “short chain” PFAS chemicals, to replace PFOA and PFOS. But a new report reveals that 3M submitted reports to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing health risks for 21 of these newer PFAS chemicals it makes. Despite industry’s claims about the relative safety of newer PFAS, there is evidence that these newer chemicals are not safe for humans or the environment. Instead of cleaning up their business to show us they care about breast cancer, 3M is continuing to contribute to a forever problem.
In one study, dying cancer patients were given extremely high doses of PFOA in 2008–2011 despite scant evidence that it would help their cancer or improve their quality of life. Results from this unethical research were never published, and to date, data about the patients’ cancer has never been presented. But instead of disavowing the study, 3M recently harvested the data and paid for re-analysis, which they’re now using to make unsupportable claims that PFOA may not be as persistent as previous studies have shown.
3M claims to be a good corporate citizen and has run several breast cancer promotions over the years, including pink hard hats and tape. In addition to marketing pink ribbon Post-its, 3M is currently selling pink stethoscopes to “help the fight against breast cancer.” 3M says their pink products are a “reminder for a good cause.” But they’re just trying to distract us from the fact that 3M’s toxic forever chemicals cause cancer, suppress the immune system, disrupt hormones, and change the structure of the mammary gland.
Tell 3M’s executives to stop producing, using, and selling PFAS!
Marketing pink products isn’t enough. If 3M really cares about breast cancer, they will put our health before their PFAS-driven profits.
Learn more, and take action at: https://bcaction.org/NeverForeverChems/
(Information provided by Breast Cancer Action. Emphasis on phrases is my own.)