What do you call it when a giant auto company says they’re “dedicated to helping those touched by breast cancer,” but their vehicles are driving up the risk of the disease?
At Breast Cancer Action, we call it “pinkwashing.”
October is often referred to as Pinktober in the breast cancer community because of the deluge of pink ribbon products that flood the market during Breast Cancer Industry (aka Awareness) Month. Anyone can put a pink ribbon on anything to boost corporate sales—and they do! Over the years, corporations have boosted their sales with everything from pink vacuum cleaners to pink handguns.
Ten years after corporations launched the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness, co-opting a grassroots ribbon calling for funding for prevention, Breast Cancer Action launched our annual Think Before You Pink® campaign, calling for accountability and transparency in breast cancer fundraising.
Despite the decades of “awareness” campaigns and the billions of dollars raised from pink ribbon purchases far too many people continue to be diagnosed and die from breast cancer. Where are the billions of dollars in pink ribbon purchases really going and why do we still have so little to show for it?
One reason is that sometimes the same companies that claim to care about breast cancer are themselves producing, manufacturing and/or selling products that may actually increase the risk of the disease. And every October, we call out the worst corporate pinkwashers. We’ve taken on multi-billion dollar companies making everything from pink fracking drill bits to KFC’s pink “buckets for a cure.”
This year we’re telling Ford Motor Company to “Put the Brakes on Breast Cancer." Ford runs Warriors in Pink, a program “dedicated to helping those touched by breast cancer.” But the exhaust from Ford’s vehicles increases breast cancer risk.
Scientists have known for decades that the carcinogens and hormone disruptors in auto exhaust cause breast cancer—carcinogens and hormone disruptors like benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Benzene, for example, is such a potent mammary carcinogen that it’s been linked to breast cancer in men.
Virtually everyone breathes in these toxic chemicals because auto exhaust is unavoidable in our modern world, no matter what mode of transportation we choose for ourselves. In fact, the 2009 President’s Cancer Panel recommended limiting exposure to auto exhaust, noting that cars, trucks, and other passenger vehicles “are responsible for approximately 30 percent of cancer resulting from air pollution.”
Yet, astonishingly, earlier this year, Ford announced plans to stop selling their only 100 percent electric, zero emission vehicle along with nearly all their other lower emission passenger cars. They have decided to go full-throttle on selling trucks and SUVs in the U.S., some of the highest emission and least regulated vehicles. Ford’s even introducing a new diesel F-150 truck—which means now America’s best-selling vehicle is offered with an engine that emits even more potent mammary carcinogens.
Of course, Ford has a good public relations team that’s busy trying to distract us from the decision to sell dirtier vehicles by touting plans for future investment in “electrification”—most of which will be in China. So why didn’t Ford showcase any electric vehicles at a major auto show earlier this year? And why have they been lobbying the Trump administration to rollback fuel emission standards?
Ford’s trying to tell us that they care about breast cancer, but in reality they’re making business decisions that will increase our exposure to chemicals that are known to cause breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a public health crisis and a social justice issue. That’s why we can’t afford to hold our breath and hope Ford’s promise of new, cleaner vehicles will come to the U.S. sometime down the road.
Instead of pinkwashing and platitudes, what we really need is for Ford to “Go Further” and make the shift to 100 percent zero emission vehicles. If Ford really cares about breast cancer as much as they say they do, this is the company’s opportunity to truly help put the brakes on the breast cancer epidemic. After all, the best way to fight cancer is to prevent it in the first place.
You can join us in telling Ford to stop pinkwashing and help put the brakes on the breast cancer epidemic. Tell them to stop making vehicles that produce cancer-causing exhaust. It’s time for Ford to make the shift to a zero emission fleet.