Posts Tagged 'fragrance toxicity'

Waspish Wednesday: Komen Foundation Pinkwashing Us with Perfume (with a side note on #Occupy)

Alright, so technically it’s Thursday, but I’ve had so much going on, this is the first chance I’ve had to write this post. To whit, the Susan G. Komen Foundation is still pinkwashing consumers. Some of you might have seen my tweets and Facebook links about this, or read my DTOX Radio blog post. I’m taking it to you, my blog readers, now before October, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” is over, because there is more to be done, and it’s really very easy to do. It also might teach you a lot you didn’t know.

Let’s start with one of the most disturbing facts about the pinkification of breast cancer: It is actually preventing breast cancer awareness. The very thing all this pink ribbon shit is supposed to do — raise awareness about breast cancer and get women to take preventive measures? — has the opposite effect.

But, it’s not just that. It’s worse. Taking the offensive, ridiculous corporatization of “girly cancer” to the next level, the Komen Foundation is selling a perfume to raise money for breast cancer prevention!

The perfume is called “Promise Me.” As in what?

  • “Promise me that you will never buy or wear this perfume because it will make anyone with fragrance sensitivity sick?”
  • “Promise me that you will make the connection between people with breast cancer and people with MCS, because both have their disease as a result of chemical injury (poisoning) by things such as the petrochemicals in perfume?”
  • “Promise me you won’t wear this perfume around anyone getting chemotherapy, because it will make them sick?”
  • “Promise me you won’t buy into a corporation pretending to be a grassroots organization putting fundraising ahead of health?”
  • “Promise me you won’t buy into the pinkwashing the Komen Foundation is engaging in as it tries to backpeddle from their deceptive practices in the name of fundraising?”

Breast Cancer Action (@BCAction on twitter) has been calling Komen to task for their pinkwashing of breast cancer and irresponsible use of carcinogenic agents to raise money.

If you missed it, BCA’s press release to RAISE A STINK on this subject can be found here.

I signed on to the petition and email the Komen foundation. I got this form letter back from them. I felt very angry about it:

Thank you for your email to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® about the Promise Me fragrance. The fragrance was designed especially for Susan G. Komen for the Cure by TPR Holdings, which is donating $1 million to Komen annually for breast cancer research, education, screening, and treatment programs. The funds raised through the sale of the perfume will be put to good use in the pursuit of that goal.

Our first concern is always the safety and well-being of women and men facing this disease. To that end, our partners’ products are subject to review by our Medical and Scientific Affairs team, which evaluated the perfume’s ingredients, the latest research, and guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to our research, the ingredients found in Promise Me are within fragrance and cosmetic industry standards, and at these levels have not been shown to elevate breast cancer risk in people. At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we support evidence-based medicine, that is, decisions based on current facts and knowledge.  In addition, we make this information available to our constituents, respecting that they are intelligent consumers who make informed decisions about the use of products based on evidence. As new research and new findings are published, we will certainly take them into account.

Nevertheless, at Komen’s request and to be sensitive to these concerns, the manufacturer agreed to reformulate the perfume. The last batch of the perfume was manufactured in May of this year; we expect manufacturing and sale of the reformulated product to begin in early 2012.  We do not intend to ask the manufacturer to recall or remove unsold products.

Komen has always believed that ending cancer requires research about how it begins and how it might be prevented, which is why Komen  has invested more than $65 million to prevention research and an additional $7 million supporting 18 projects investigating environmental estrogens, pesticides, steroid hormones, and nitrites/nitrates and their relation to breast cancer.

We’re also taking action for clarity and consensus around the direction that environmental research should take in the future, which is why we requested – and are funding – a $1 million study by the Institute of Medicine to answer that question. We expect IOM’s recommendations in December, along with IOM’s assessment of evidence-based strategies for individuals to reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Komen is strongly committed to addressing breast cancer through science, advocacy and community and global outreach to achieve our mission to end breast cancer, forever.

I’m going to deconstruct this reply based on my 16 years of experience as an environmental health activist. Then, I’ll give you the info on how Breast Cancer Action views this response.

First paragraph: This corporate buddy program is going to bring in a lot of money. That’s our first priority.

Second paragraph: We used FDA guidelines. Of course, since the FDA doesn’t follow its own guidelines for testing or labeling cosmetics, and in fact lets perfume manufacturers hide behind “trade secret laws” that keep those untested or known toxic ingredients secret, FDA guidelines really amounts to a free-for-all, with no regulation.

The third paragraph is so dense with misleading language that it requires several bullet points:

1. “The ingredients found in Promise Me are within fragrance and cosmetic industry standards” = see links above, that fragrance and cosmetic industry standards are set by the industry, itself, to avoid regulation.

2. “These levels have not been shown to elevate breast cancer risk in people” = “We don’t actually know if these chemicals elevate breast cancer risk in people, there’s just not enough proof yet to say we know. We also are not mentioning other types of chemical injury/health damage known to be caused by perfume chemicals, nor studies of fragrance chemicals’ effects on laboratory animals or the environment.”

3. “At Susan G. Komen for the Cure, we support evidence-based medicine, that is, decisions based on current facts and knowledge.” In other words, we only will believe that something is harmful once it has been on the market long enough, and enough people have gotten sick, died, and/or brought suit against us, and enough time has elapsed that the chemicals have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to cause illness, that it is in fact dangerous. We do not follow the Precautionary Principle, which takes the common sense approach that you first prove something is safe before introducing it into the environment and people’s lives and bodies. Instead, we believe in releasing products without sufficient testing, and only when they are known to be highly dangerous, are they removed from the market (when the damage is done). That is Science!”

4.  “We make this information available to our constituents, respecting that they are intelligent consumers who make informed decisions about the use of products based on evidence.” In other words, “People should just know, without being presented with all the facts, that the products we, a health advocacy organization, are promoting may be hazardous to their health, so if they get sick as a result, it’s their own fault for not being informed consumers.”

5. “As new research and new findings are published, we will certainly take them into account.” Again, “Once we have enough double-blind, placebo-controlled studies proving that these perfume chemicals are dangerous, we’ll switch to something else (which has not yet been tested, either).”

Phew!

Fourth paragraph: We’re still going to sell the stuff we know is hazardous that we’ve already made, but we’ll reformulate a new perfume that has slightly different ingredients, but will still, of course, because it is perfume made up of synthetic chemicals, be hazardous to health and the environment. But, once you know what’s in it, it’ll already be for sale, too.

Fifth paragraph: We’re spending a lot of money, folks! We are spending this million and that million, and we are even examining some environmental factors, just not the ones that affect our bottom line.

Sixth paragraph: We’re using a tiny percentage of our budget to discuss how we want to investigate “environmental research,” but we’ll only listen to “evidence-based” strategies, which is our way of saying that we can pick and choose which “facts” are most convenient for us.

So, that’s how I parse their response. Breast Cancer Action was equally unimpressed with the Komen Foundation’s response, which they say, Raises More Questions than It Answers.

If you would like to get involved in the effort to uncover the true nature of breast cancer research, funding, and other pertinent issues, BCA has a fantastic toolkit available (in PDF form):

With Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink Toolkit, you’ll get the resources, information, and tools you need to understand the truth behind pink ribbon marketing, the conflicts of interest in the cancer industry, and why so many women are still being diagnosed—and help others learn about it, too.

The toolkit gives the history and background of pinkification and how corporations have jumped on the pink bandwagon to cash in on concerns about breast cancer while selling products that promote breast cancer! THAT’s what pinkwashing is!

It’s easy enough to see the corporatization of breast cancer on your own, without any materials from an advocacy organization. Just put “Susan G. Komen” into your Twitter search box, and you’ll see hundreds of tweets about winning or buying cameras, clothes, purses, bras, and fashion magazines in the name of supporting the Komen Foundation. Forbes has even profiled the Komen CEO in this article, “Susan G. Komen CEO: Too Much Pink Is Never Enough.”

Meanwhile, here are some easy things to do to raise a stink:

You can use BCA’s handy-dandy form that just takes a moment to fill out and will then get sent to the CEO, chief marketing officer, and vice president of Komen for the Cure.

You can also contact Komen for the Cure and tell them in your own words, “Making and marketing a product to women that contains synthetic chemicals is NOT the way to fight breast cancer!”

You can tweet the Komen Foundation at @komenforthecure

Or use snail-mail: Komen for the Cure, 5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 250, Dallas, TX 75244

Phone: 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)

Email: http://ww5.komen.org/contact.aspx

Maybe it’s hard to think about this with all the global upheaval occurring. I plan to spend the next week’s blogs on #Occupy — specifically how people with chronic illness and disability can get involved in the efforts.

But I needed to do this first, because the #Occupy movement and the Think Before You Pink campaign are sisters:

Are you having trouble focusing on this or other “small matters” because you are wanting to work on the #Occupy movement? They are very much related. This excellent blog post, Telling the truth is a revolutionary act, by a staff member of Breast Cancer Action who was feeling this conflict and came to some profound realizations about the connections between the work she was doing, and the #Occupy movement.

Please click on this link to do your easy activism by sending a letter to the Komen Foundation. It will only take you a minute. And then, back to my regularly scheduled Barnum updates and lots — I hope — about #Occupy and how people with chronic illness and disability can get involved in the movement.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (who died of cancer despite getting lots of exercise and not smoking, drinking, or eating fatty foods), and Barnum, SDiT and budding RETRIEVER!

Waspish Wednesday: Receive Free Sn*ggle Sample (Then Vomit)

Wow! Sometimes I really have to wonder how I get on various mailing lists or get certain targeted ad campaigns. (Although, as we shall discover, I did eventually get a hint about this one.)

I mean, I understand why 80 percent of the FaceBook ads and AOL ads I see are for dog food or dog training or donating to the ASPCA. A little less clear is why I get ads for “Hunky Men!” or “Male Singles in Your Area Want to Meet You!” But, since I generally check “single,” in the categories asking me if I’m married, divorced, widowed, or single, I can sort of see that, too. (Most of those forms don’t follow that up with, “Oh, and by the way, are you a lesbian? Cuz we were just assuming you were heterosexual.”)

Be-that-as-it-shouldn’t-be, I was quite amazed at what slithered into my email inbox today. The subject line/headline is, “Receive a Free Sample of Snuggle(R) Fabric Softener!”

Yes, really.

Let’s start of with this question: Is there anyone on the planet who actually likes Sn*ggle? Even before I was chemically injured and developed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), I — and all my friends — loathed the Sn*ggle bear. Any time an ad came on with that noxious pipsqueak of a teddy, we wanted to throw something heavy at the TV. My favorite picture of the Sn*ggle bear was drawn by my friend Peggy Munson, for her page, Welcome to Camp NoStink. If you can view images, I definitely encourage you to check it out, because it’s hilarious.

If you can’t, here’s my best effort at doing the drawing justice. [Image description: A cartoon that looks as if it was drawn on a computer. An impressively realistic-looking brown grizzly bear snarls, with mouth open, holding the “Sn*ggle bear” by one ear. The Sn*ggle bear has the happy, vacant expression of a stuffed toy. It is holding a box that says, “Fabric Softener” under one arm. The other arm has been severed, with a bloody stump at the shoulder socket. The disembodied arm is flying through the air. Blood squirts out of the socket, the amputated appendage, and the Sn*ggle bear’s ear that is hooked on the grizzly’s teeth.]

Of course, this is nothing compared to the fact that Sn*ggle fabric softener is one of the worst toxic offenders and creators of misery for people with MCS. The problem with scented fabric softener is not only that it reeks of toxic chemicals that make me sick. It also, because of the adhesive properties created for these fragrance chemicals, adheres forever (really — you can never wash it out) to everything it touches or fumigates. Also, because it’s used in dryers, which are vented to the outside, it is forcibly blown at anyone who is nearby. Interestingly enough, some of the chemicals used in dryer sheets are dangerous when heated!

If you really want to hear a person with MCS rant about what makes our lives hell, mention fabric softener.

The email says, “Does your laundry need a little boost of freshness? Sn*ggle Fabric Softener comes in a variety of fragrances to put that extra ‘Ahhhhh’ in your clothes. . . . Just answer a few questions & we’ll send you a Free Sample!”

“Ahhhh” is right. But, I don’t think the tone comes across just so. It’s more like, “Aieeeee! Augh! Ack, ack, koff! Koff! Koff! [Vomiting sound].” And then a quiet moan of misery for the next day or several as the migraine settles in.

But for “Gift fulfillment” you must answer questions from Lifescript Advantage Women’s Health. This turns out to be your contact information, age, member registration, survey questions, and “completion of question asked in conjunction with this promotional offer.”

I googled Lifescript Advantage and found a page with a rotation of six advertisements articles on various topics. The first shows a picture of the same woman in two poses (and two outfits!). In the first pic, she is smiling happily (and wearing a yellow V-neck sweater). In the second, she is hanging her head with a big frowny face (and wearing a blue V-neck sweater). The caption is, “Up or Down? 10 Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder.” I kid you not. We all know that if your mood changes (to match your sweaters), you must have a major mental illness, right?

The next one shows a headless guy in a snazzy suit holding a red rose out to you. (For me? Really? Aw, you shouldn’t have.) The caption is, “Is Mr. Right All Wrong? 7 Tips for Telling if He’s a Dream or a Dud.” And this relates to women’s health, how?

Then there’s the picture of a sausage held above a plate of bacon, which says, “Bacon vs. Sausage? Which is really healthier? Plus 8 other diet-friendly food swaps.” I’m going to guess, “Neither, but they’re both delicious!” (Now I’m hungry!)

There are two that actually seem to relate to women’s health, and they are, of course about (big hint: lots of PINK! BRIGHT PINK! REALLY REALLY PRETTY PINK BOWS!). Yes, breast cancer. Breast cancer, which is at epidemic proportions because of what? Carcinogens in our environment. Carcinogens such as benzyl acetate, chloroform, and limonene, among many other toxic chemicals found in fabric softener. (Yes, chloroform. You’ve heard of it? The stuff that’s used to knock people unconscious?)

However, the most disturbing, jarring, and all-out bizarre advert is the one of former President George W. Bush, wearing his little flag lapel pin, standing against a blue background, grinning as if he is still the President! Agh! Agh! Agh!!! No, no, no, noooooooo!!!!!

Okay. I’m alright now. Just needed to take a few deep breaths into a paper bag with my head between my knees. And check my calendar.

So, why am I being assaulted presented with a photo of the worst thing to happen to the planet since, well, I dunno, the discovery of pesticide? “Bush’s New Campaign,” it says. “Ex-President Launches Initiative to Improve Women’s Health.” Really.

Really? Really? Bush. Improve? Women’s? Health?!

In terms of his domestic policy, a Mother Jones article on Bush “waging war on women” reports:

Who has Bush placed in important posts involving women’s health, education, and employment? Well, darling, according to Bush appointees, when you get PMS, pray. If your husband beats the crap out of you, just agree that wives should be submissive to their husbands, and besides, as everybody in the Bush administration knows, women beat up men just as often as men beat up women. Oh, and if you get breast cancer, it’s your fault because you had an abortion—a conclusion that particularly startled people who study the disease.

Elsewhere, Bush imposed the “global gag rule,” which meant that any group receiving U.S. funding for family planning was banned from mentioning abortion, even when medically necessary. And how is women’s health in Afghanistan and Iraq, after Bush started the wars there? Not so good, I’d think, if any news was allowed to leak from the front lines. And all the environmental destruction he caused that is continuing to unfold? Good for women’s health, huh?

Well, there’s just too much to list, obviously. Right at the beginning of his presidency, NOW put out their “Bush Whacker” campaign round-up of W’s record on women’s rights. This is the harm he caused before he even became president.

So, yeah. This seems about right. When you know who the chemical corporations are snuggled up with, it makes sense that they run a “Women’s Health Issues” website with pictures of bacon, George W. Bush, and “9 Reasons Men Cheat.”

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT

P.S. The weirdest thing of all was when I uncovered the address of who sent me this particularly nauseating slab of spam. It came from Free_SnuggleSample [at] homosexualse [dot] net. So, someone does realize I’m a lesbian. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.


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