A controversy surrounding a major oil and gas services company’s breast cancer awareness campaign drew protestors to downtown Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Football fans packing into Heinz Field for the Steelers-Colts game were met by a handful of people handing out flyers and holding up signs warning passersby to “think before you pink.”
At half time, Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead planned to hand over a $100,000 check to Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organizations which funds screenings, treatments and research. The company is also giving out 1,000 hot pink drill bits to its customers around the world, along with breast cancer awareness and screening information.
Over the last few weeks, the backlash has brought together anti-fracking activists and health advocates who object to campaigns that they say “pinkwash” the serious impacts breast cancer brings on those with the disease and their families.
“It’s the biggest slap in the face,” said Dana Dolney, director of Friends of the Harmed. The group works with Pennsylvania residents who say their health has been impacted by nearby oil and gas development.
Dolney, a breast cancer survivor, was among those who on Friday delivered more than 150,000 signatures on a petition urging Komen to reject Baker Hughes’ donation to the foundation’s Pittsburgh affiliate.Instead, Dolney said she wants the company to put the money toward protecting and educating its own employees who work in the field. A recent study showed oil and gas workers could be exposed to dangerous levels of the carcinogen benzene.
In an e-mailed statement, Baker Hughes spokeswoman Melanie Kania told StateImpact Pennsylvania the donation and the drill bits are part of a campaign led by its employees whose families have been affected by cancer:
The Susan G. Komen mission to end breast cancer forever is personal to many of our employees and their families. Our donation to the organization is part of a broader employee-led initiative that contributes to research, treatment, screening and education to help find the cure for the disease.
The foundation has said it appreciates their support, which is not “tied to sales of the pink drill bits or other products.”
That angers Bekezela Mguni, a director at New Voices Pittsburgh. The nonprofit advocates for the health of women of color, who are about 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women with the disease.
“If you’re in support of a cure for cancer, you would shut down anything that proliferates cancer causing agents in their community,” Mguni said. “You would not support anything that damages water and air.”