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Missourians Urged to Be Mindful of "Pinkwashing"

PHOTO: Every October, hundreds of products are sold bearing breast cancer awareness ribbons, but is awareness enough to eradicate the disease? Photo credit: SDRandCo/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Every October, hundreds of products are sold bearing breast cancer awareness ribbons, but is awareness enough to eradicate the disease? Photo credit: SDRandCo/morguefile.com.
October 6, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – From bagels to bags, pizza boxes to pajamas, 'tis the season when pink ribbon products pile up on store shelves across Missouri.

But one group says if the goal is to one day eradicate breast cancer, it's important to "Think Before You Pink."

Karuna Jaggar, executive director of the advocacy group Breast Cancer Action, says while many purchases do benefit breast cancer programs, marketers can put a pink ribbon on anything in the name of awareness, without actually donating any money to the cause.

"The public does care about breast cancer, and they should,” she says. “What needs to happen is they need this opportunity to make sure that their goodwill and their charitable dollar is doing what they think it's doing."

Jaggar recommends that before Missourians make a pink ribbon purchase, they take the time to find out how much if any money will go to breast cancer organizations, which organizations get the money and how they use it, whether or not there is a cap on a company's donations, and whether the product contains any known or suspected links to cancer.

Jaggar says the Think Before You Pink campaign is in no way an effort to discourage contributions.

Rather, she stresses the goal is to empower consumers to feel confident their goodwill and money are doing what they think they're doing.

"If a pink ribbon product doesn't meet your own standards of a charitable contribution, we always encourage people to give directly to a breast cancer organization whose work they believe is really most essential and most powerful to addressing the breast cancer epidemic," she advises.

Jaggar adds there are several different fronts on which to fight the battle, and hopes consumers will take the time and effort to direct their money toward what they feel is most important.

"Do you expect your money to be going to research for better treatments or research into the root causes of the disease?” she says. “Or emergency funds for low-income women who need child care and transportation?"

As for some critics who say the pink ribbon campaign overshadows other causes, Jaggar says it's not productive to pit diseases against each other, and feels the focus should be on finding systemic solutions to public health issues.

An estimated 220,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,000 will die from the disease.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO