Delivering protest petitions Friday afternoon to the Pittsburgh affiliate of the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization, activists from local and national groups called for more attention to preventing breast cancer in women and less focus on building breast cancer awareness through partnerships with industry.
They called for Komen to refuse a $100,000 donation from Baker Hughes Inc., a Houston-based drilling equipment and well services firm with operations in Western Pennsylvania. The check presentation is slated for Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Breast cancer survivor Dana Dolney, director of Friends of the Harmed, a local nonprofit that supports people adversely affected by drilling near their homes, said the petitions were gathered in Pittsburgh “because of the need here.” Chemicals from hydraulic fracturing found in the environment near wells have been linked to greater risk of illness and cancer.
“I believe it is criminal for people to be exposed to toxic chemicals in their own backyard,” Ms. Dolney said.
She said they want Komen to stop “pinkwashing,” or allowing companies to use breast cancer publicity to improve their corporate image.
Baker Hughes’ website describes its Komen connection: “The yearlong partnership with Komen is an extension of the company’s participation each year in the Komen Houston Race for the Cure, where Baker Hughes sponsors the Survivor Pin Celebration. This year, the company will paint and distribute a total of 1,000 pink drill bits worldwide. 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.”
The protest group argues that a partnership with a shale drilling company is not appropriate for the breast cancer organization. They said they had gathered 150,000 signatures in three weeks. Appearing Friday were also representatives from Breast Cancer Action, a nonprofit advocacy and educational agency, and New Voices Pittsburgh, a human rights organization for women of color.
In Pittsburgh, Kathy Purcell, chief executive officer of local Komen affiliate in Regent Square, said she will forward the petitions to Komen’s Dallas headquarters.
A statement from the headquarters said the donation is earmarked for the national organization. “We understand some have strong opinions about this issue. We also understand and respect the passion and commitment of the Baker Hughes employees, who have been personally affected by this disease, which inspired this donation.”
La’Tasha D. Mayes, founder of New Voices Pittsburgh, said her group is concerned about the health and well being of black women and girls, who have higher rates of problems with access to care and aggressive types of breast cancer.
“It’s totally unacceptable for Komen to accept funding from Baker Hughes,” she said.
Jill Daly: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-1596. First Published October 24, 2014 2:29 PM