THINK BEFORE YOU PINK

Before you open your heart—and more important, pocketbook—to pink-ribbon tie-ins, Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign urges you to pose some critical questions:

1. How much money from your purchase actually goes to the cause?

2. What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

3. How much money was spent marketing the product?

4. How are the funds being raised?

5. To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

6. What is the company doing to assure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

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KFC BUCKETS FOR THE CURE

Of all the incongruous merchandise to get a pink-over, KFC’s “Buckets for the Cure” must rate as one of the most surreal. Never mind that the National Cancer Institute associates colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer with “high intakes of well-done, fried, or [barbequed] meats,” nor the fact that the fine print indicates a guaranteed contribution of $1 million to Susan G. Komen for the Cure—no purchase of buckets, pink or otherwise, necessary.

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AVON BREAST CANCER CRUSADE

Avon, ubiquitous sponsor of many a breast cancer walk, continues to use the disease as a platform for brand recognition. Yet it flagrantly hawks products that harbor many of the toxic chemicals associated with the same cancer it seeks to eradicate. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database classifies more than 140 of Avon’s products as “high hazard” due to the presence of hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and possible carcinogens.

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ESTÉE LAUDER PINK RIBBON COLLECTION

Estée Lauder has a “brilliant way” to show your support of breast-cancer awareness: lipstick in your choice of “Evelyn Wildly pink” or “Lavish pink” in a pink croc-embossed clutch. (The company will donate 20 percent of the suggested retail price of its Pink Ribbon Collection to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.) The irony? The rosy-hued wares are chockfull of reproductive toxins, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and carcinogens. As a member of the Personal Care Products Council (formerly known as the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association), Estée Lauder also opposed a 2005 California bill that required cosmetics firms to disclose their use of chemicals linked to cancer or birth defects.

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DRIVE FOR THE CURE

You’ve seen the ads: Ford, Mercedes, BMW, and Fiat are urging folks to test-drive or buy its latest hot rod by promising cash for breast-cancer research for every mile driven. Yet car exhaust brims with toxic chemicals that are linked to the disease, such as benzo[a]pyrene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, benzene, and 1,3-butadiene, each one nastier than the last. In fact, occupational exposure to 1,3-butadiene suggests increased rates of multiple cancers, including the amplified risk of mammary tumors, according to the International Agency for Research on Chemicals.

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CAMPBELL’S CANS FOR CANCER

In 2008, Campbell’s partnered with the Kroger chain of supermarkets to fete a limited-edition pink label on its chicken-noodle and tomato condensed soups. To Campbell’s credit, it pledged to donate $325,000 in support of breast-cancer research, detection, and treatment, regardless of how many units Kroger pushed. A recent study by the Breast Cancer Fund, however, uncovered alarmingly high levels of bisphenol-A in cans marketed at children. Estrogenic chemicals linked to breast cancer in lab studies? Mmmm, mmm, not so good.

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PHILOSOPHY HOPE IN A JAR

By now it shouldn’t surprise you that Philosophy’s “Hope in a Jar” moisturizer doesn’t contain hope. Sure, $5 from every purchase benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, but you’ll also get a hefty dollop of chemical nasties, including methylparaben and propylparaben. Parabens are a class of chemicals thought to mimic the hormone estrogen, which some studies show plays a role in the development breast cancer and urogenital abnormalities.

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SAVE LIDS, SAVE LIVES

For every pink yogurt lid you send in until December 31, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure until it reaches $2 million. Simple, right? Except that it costs 44 cents just to buy each stamp, not to mention the fact you’ll need to down 100 yogurt cups for a middling $10 contribution. But fuzzy math aside, until recently, Yoplait also contained rbGH (or recombinant bovine growth hormone), a synthetic hormone with unresolved questions about its impact on human health, including cancer.

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PROMISE ME

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is typically at the receiving end of the cause-related largesse, but the largest private charity dedicated to breast cancer has commissioned its own dubious tie-in: a perfume, dubbed “Promise Me,” that contains a number of suspect chemicals not listed in the ingredients, according to a third-party analysis contracted by Breast Cancer Action. Topping the list are galaxolide and toluene; the first is a hormone disruptor that’s been detected in blood, breast milk, and newborns, while the second is a neurotoxin banned by the International Fragrance Association for a variety of demonstrated health effects. Plus, at least to one calculation, only $1.51, or 3 percent of each $59 sale, will actually go to furthering breast-cancer research.

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BLOOMINGDALE’S LITTLE PINK CAMPAIGN

Bloomingdale’s “Little Pink Campaign” even comes with its own “Little Pink Bag.” It gets brownie points for Stateside manufacturing, but it’s also made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which leaches a class of plasticizers known as phthalates into the air. Phthalates have been linked to a host of reproductive ills, according to the’ U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, including early breast development in otherwise-healthy girls.

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CHAMBORD PINK YOUR DRINK

Pink your drink by hosting a “Cupcakes and Cocktails” soiree—preferably with Chambord’s raspberry-flavored tipple, of course—and the liquor company will bequeath $5 to Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for every guest you invite, up to a maximum donation goal of $10,000. But both the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute say even moderate drinking increases breast cancer risk. “Anybody trying to sell alcohol to promote breast cancer awareness should be ashamed of themselves,” Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, told U.S.A. Today in 2010.