Yesterday, I received a phone response from the BCS, which was really great. Marsha Davidson contacted me and assured me that they were going to investigate the fact that their awareness stickers are printed on vinyl (a known carcinogen) with Chroma-graphics, which is a PlastiColor company.
BCS response to Vinyl endorsement from Taylor Davis on Vimeo.
The Canadian Cancer Society had this to say about the stickers that the BCS is endorsing:
"With regards to the breast cancer ribbon stickers you refer to and the dangers of vinyl chloride, I would first like to point out that the Breast Cancer Society of Canada is not affiliated with the Canadian Cancer Society and therefore these stickers are not coming from our organization.Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen."
She also said that she had sent me a reply to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is one letter off from my email address, email@example.com. I don't understand how when one 'replies' to an email the sending can go wrong, but that's beside the point.
I also realized that I had somewhere along the line of trying to contact the various organizations, I had associated the BCS with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CBCF.
It is now my understanding that all of these organizations are not associated with each other; the CCS, the BCS and the CBCF are all separate, not to mention all of the other 'pink' organizations.
I was browsing through thebreastcancersite.com and marveling at all of the products one can buy to stop cancer. This website is operated and owned by CharityUSA.com, LLC. which is:
"one of the largest US importers of fair-trade artisan products made by rural women from areas of conflict and poverty. We sell products from 40 countries and work with charity partners to directly import custom jewelry and other products from artisan cooperatives all over the world. In fiscal year 2008, buyers from CharityUSA.com, LLC visited Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Canada, in addition to sourcing product made in the United States. We are a mission-driven company, and it is our belief that selling artisan products made by rural women is one of the most important things we do because it reduces intergenerational poverty and has been correlated with improved education for children"
So far I haven't really looked too far into what sorts of companies and sources CharityUSA uses for their products, but I am certain that some of the products they sell cause cancer and contribute to a pattern of global inequality. I haven't been able to find information of the working conditions, or names of foreign companies that they associate with, but they offer a description: "imported from Thailand, from a Thai company that offers skilled craftspeople a safe environment and fair wages."
Perhaps I will go into this a little later.
Back to Teflon and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
Keep in mind that Teflon is in everything. Gore-Tex, stain resistant clothing, carpets, and of course cancer awareness products, and in human blood streams and food webs.
Here is a good synopsis, and a good source for other articles on this subject: http://www.ewg.org/node/8760
"Scientists independent of chemical industry money looked at the toxicity of this chemical, and the verdict is clear: This Teflon chemical should be considered a likely human carcinogen. If EPA officials needed a reason to level the maximum fine against this $24.6 billion company, they have it now," said EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles. "DuPont might be politically connected with an army of lobbyists, but it should still be held accountable."
As far as the Canadian Cancer Society is concerned:
"With regards to PTFE being a known carcinogen, there is a debate in the scientific community about this chemical. There is some concern that PTFE (the non-stick coating) may break down during use to release small amounts of TFE, a substance that may cause cancer in humans, however there is no definitive evidence at this time.Similarly, there is no conclusive research at this time to indicate that PFOA (the substance used during the manufacture of non-stick coatings) causes cancer in humans, however, this issue continues to be monitored and assessed by the scientific community. The Canadian Cancer Society believes that Canadians have the right to know what is in their products. This allows individuals to choose to avoid certain products when the science is not entirely conclusive."
It is important to view this 'debate' in the context of history. The chemical industry has a long history of subversion and secrecy. I would suggest looking at the Bill Moyers documentary Trade Secrets for more information on the corruption of the chemical industry.
After re-directing my action towards the CBCF, I sent them an email yesterday:
Hello, I tried contacting your organization a couple months ago about a questionable endorsement that your organization has chosen. According to your partnership with HBC/Zeller's: "This year HBC is offering exclusive pink merchandise through its Bay, Zeller's, and Home Outfitters stores throughout Canada; net proceeds will go directly to support the Canadian Brest Cancer Foundation."
"The goal of the Think Pink™ program is to one day live in a world without breast cancer. The funds raised work towards this goal by supporting breast cancer research, and breast health education and awareness programs across the country. Think Pink™ and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation believe in being breast aware and proactive in our health."
As a part of this partnership, a line of Telfon non-stick cookware is being sold. Perhaps this isn't the exact line that is being sold, but something to this effect:
Apparently there is still a debate going on within the 'scientific community' about the dangers of Teflon and the associated chemicals that go into the manufacturing process. Apparently there is no 'definitive' human/Teflon cancer link.
However, the legitimacy of the debate is lies on dubious ground.
In 2005, DuPont was forced to pay a settlement of 16.5 million dollars because of withholding information about the harm of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
and in February of 2005, the company agreed to pay more than $107 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 2001 by Ohio and West Virginia residents who claimed that DuPont intentionally withheld and misrepresented information concerning human health threat posed by PFOA.
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers PFOA a likely human carcinogen known to induce testicular and mammary cancers in animals. Two peer-reviewed studies from UCLA and Johns Hopkins published last year have linked PFOA exposure among the general population to low birth weight. Perfluorinated chemicals are also associated with altered male reproductive hormones, and effects on the liver, thyroid gland, and immune system.Unlike other pollutants, which break down in the environment eventually, PFOA and other PFCs don’t, according to EPA. Every molecule that is produced today will be around forever, continually redistributing throughout the environment. As a result, it is in the bloodstream of virtually every person in the country - including children still in the womb."The definitive evidence that they are speaking of is pretty clear, in my opinion from looking at the research. How the EPA came to its non-ruling (DuPont scientists, skewed facts etc.) and that it is still in 'debate' if it causes harm is dubious. Teflon is found in the bloodstream of almost every American. The research and other informative documents can be found here:
The Canadian Federal Government has also moved to restrict the use of non stick chemicals because of the 'likelihood of harm' yet the CBCF still endorses and promotes the sale of these items.
Unfortunately, HBC/Zeller's is apparently unable to help out in the matter; this was their response:
Dear Mr. Davis, I do understand your concern in this matter and it is really unfortunate that the managers have not reverted back to you. However, I would like to inform you that since we only provide space for these products to sell, I wouldn't be able to provide you with the appropriate assisstance. If there is any other concern that we can assisst you with, please contact us at 1866 746 7422 or Customer.Service@hbc.com Regards,
Clearly, Teflon and associated chemicals cause harm. Some suggest that using the pans safely, i.e. at low temperatures, keep the coating unblemished, discard after time etc. poses no threat to human health and safety. This may be true in the acute sense of the word harm or human health, however when considering the entire life span of a product from manufacturing, consumption and disposal, clearly damage is being caused.
I understand that it may not be considered an 'unsafe' substance yet, however one would assume that an anti-cancer organization would practice risk aversion and would do everything in their power to warn the public against potential dangers, and certainly would not encourage the sale of them.
As we have seen with other chemicals, once we find out that they do indeed cause cancer, they already are pervasive in our food webs and bodies, making them impossible to clean up.
The goal of the "Think Pink" program needs to be re-considered if they are going to endorse and encourage the sale of carcinogenic chemicals in the name of a fanciful "world without breast cancer".
I am in the process of composing a news article on this matter, and also am creating a documentary film, which will be released over the Internet. It is my hope that I can gain a positive statement of action from the CBCF on this issue. I have posted a preview of this film on my blog http://www.die4freedom.blogspot.com/ It would be helpful, I would think, to your organization's image to give me some sort of a statement. Thus far, I have not received a single response from your organization, which to me is unacceptable. At least, tell me my concerns are unfounded, or provide your rational for endorsing such products? Your silence tells me two things. 1) that my concerns are founded and that this was a honest mistake made by the CBCF. 2) It was an issue that was known about, but was kept silent from the public to sell off remaining merchandise stock.
I would really appreciate some sort of response from your organization. Public support and position can change very quickly, as was in the case of BPA/nalgene bottles. The public is increasingly informed and aware of these issues, so I urge the CBCF to be proactive on this and do what it takes to right this situation it has found itself in. Cancer research is important, and important to secure funding for, however there are other totally safe and sustainable products that could be endorsed and sold instead. Solutions are available, however the decisions have to be made and personal responsibility has to be taken in order for real change to happen. I urge you to do the right thing, as it would be beneficial to everyone. Harm reduction and risk aversion for the public also means the same for your organization.
Thank you and I look forward to your response, and I hope I don't have to wait another 3 months to receive it.
So, we will see what happens.