Can pink drill bits used in the potentially toxic industry of hydraulic fracturing stand as symbols in the fight against breast cancer? That's the puzzling question the cancer community is debating (and seething over) after the Susan G. Komen foundation and Baker Hughes — an oilfield services company that helps increase fracking yields — made their latest partnership public.
"This year, the company will paint and distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide," says the website of Baker Hughes, which also donated $100,000 to the foundation. "The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening, and education to help find the cures for this disease, which claims a life every 60 seconds."
While Baker Hughes' concern is laudable, it's those very drill bits that help facilitate the release of chemicals underground, including carcinogens that can cause cancer.
“With all the toxic chemicals Baker Hughes is pumping into the ground, we thought they didn’t care about women’s health. However, this partnership with Komen makes it clear where both organizations stand on this issue,” Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, said in an article on her site.
“Now people will learn how fracking relies on carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene," she added. "Personally, I love a good dose of benzene with my pink ribbon."
The reaction on Twitter has been just as critical, with thousands chiming in against Komen's decision to accept money from the oil and gas giant.
Pink fracking drill bits release carcinogenic gases, AND spread awareness of your subsequent cancer. Two birds, one drill.— Jesse VandenBergh (@JesseElderV) October 11, 2014
In addition to Twitter, the Susan G. Komen foundation Facebook page has been inundated with comments from disappointed supporters and calls for the organization to return the money.
"What gives me strength is not an organization that pinkwashes," wrote one commenter. "It is the true organizations that are honest! Watching my Mom fight her hard battle with IBC is what gives me strength! Not some organizations that takes blood money ... money that is made by causing cancer!"
So far, neither company has commented on the controversy, but they have until Oct. 26 to think it over. That's when representatives from Baker Hughes will present the Komen foundation with a $100,000 check at the Pittsburgh Steelers-Indianapolis Colts game. If online reaction is any indication, such a setting may not generate the warm welcome they're expecting.
Related on MNN:
- Is hydraulic fracturing (fracking) safe?
- Curing cancer with fried chicken?
- Breast cancer: The risks and how you can reduce them