Pinkwashing Hits a New Low

drill-bit-pink
(Credit: Baker Hughes)

Lindsey Abrams has published an article in Salon describing an oil company’s contribution to breast cancer awareness.  Some might see some irony here since some  fracking fluids are known carcinogens.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


Fracking company teams up with Susan G. Komen, introduces pink drill bits “for the cure”

Pinkwashing hits a new low (updated)

Updated 10/8/2014 3:30 pm ET:

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Lindsay Abrams

In a statement to the IB Times, a Komen spokeswoman said that the partnership “grew from Baker Hughes’ involvement in our Houston Race for the Cure” and that “the issue is personal to them and their employees,” adding that “the evidence to this point does not establish a connection between fracking and breast cancer.”

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the foundation known for painting everything pink and, in one extremely controversial decision, pulling its grants from Planned Parenthood, has found a partner in Baker Hughes, a major drilling services company. The result: Baker Hughes is rolling out one thousand pink drill bits this October. Seriously.

The oilfields giant, which also donated $100,000 to the foundation, boasts that it’s “doing our ‘bit’ for the cure.” Get it? It’s a pun. A horribly misguided, pinkwashing attempt at a pun.

“Our hope is from the water cooler to the rig site to the coffee shop to everywhere, someone gets this information to their spouses, their girlfriends, their daughters so we can create awareness and end this disease forever,” said Bill Debo, director of operations for U.S. land drill bits at Baker Hughes.

…Each steel bit — weighing 85 to 260 pounds — is painted by hand at the company’s drill bit manufacturing facility in The Woodlands and then shipped to the drill site in a pink-topped container containing information packets with breast health facts, including breast cancer risk factors and screening tips.

The hope is that the roughneck who cracks open that container learns a little more about the disease that afflicts 200,000 women per year.

 

All laudable intentions. But drill bits are used, of course, to drill oil and natural gas wells, some of which are later exploited using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. We don’t know a lot about the health risks of fracking, owing to drillers’ and regulators’ drill first, ask questions later strategy, and because the industry, in many cases, protects the precise mix of chemicals used as a “trade secret.” (Baker Hughes announced last week that it will begin disclosing all of the chemicals used in its fracking operations.) Of the 190-some chemicals commonly used by the industry, we’re lacking publicly available information about the safety of about a third of them. And in August, a federal study tested urine samples in workers who monitor fracking flowback, and found that some had been exposed to “higher than recommended” levels of benzene, a known carcinogen.

 

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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