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Baker Hughes Fights Breast Cancer With Pink Fracking Drill Bits

Eric Justian headshotWords by Eric Justian
Energy & Environment

Paint it pink. Why not? The pink-ification of just about everything to raise breast cancer awareness may have run up against its limits with pink oil drill bits.

In a world with pink AR-15s, pink trash bins, pink soup cans, and pink everything else now Baker Hughes, a leader in hydraulic fracturing equipment, is painting pink 1000 drill bits used in fracking. The reason? To raise breast cancer awareness among the hard working mostly-men in oil fields.

Baker Hughes's commitment doesn't stop at pink though, though. It extends to green, and we don't mean environmental. For the second year in the row the company is donating $100,000 to Susan G. Komen, the best-funded breast cancer organization in the U.S. In exchange, Baker Hughes gets to use the specific shade of pink Susan G. Komen has trademarked. Generally, that's a hard thing to call "Bad." Obviously they shouldn't forego donations if they help people. But there's definitely a bit of irony involved considering the carcinogenic nature of fracking chemicals.

Says Baker Hughes :

For the second consecutive year, Baker Hughes is donating $100,000 to support Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization...

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.

Obviously there has been some blowback to this campaign.

It's easy to understand some of the criticism from places like Breast Cancer Action and Mother Jones magazine. Considering the amount of carcinogens pumped into the water supply by fracking operations, the partnership is a bit of a slap in the face to the notion of curing cancer. Fracking activities elevate the levels of benzene and other known carcinogenic compounds around fracked wells. Workers and people living around fracking sites have shown elevated levels of benzene, and exposure to it is linked to, you guessed it, breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Action's website takes direct aim at fracking as a cause of breast cancer, "Breast Cancer Action opposes hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking' because the practice exposes people to endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic chemicals that are linked to breast cancer."

It's really hard to argue, though, when a company like Baker Hughes wants to donate money to the cause. But the bigger question is why would Susan G. Komen associate itself with a company that may be exposing people to carcinogens that cause breast cancer?

Apparently these shaky relationship aren't new for Susan G. Komen. In 2010 the organization angered donors by raising money through KFC. The fund raising campaign was known as "Buckets for the Cure" complete with pink buckets full of delicious fried chicken. Meanwhile many health organizations as well as Susan G. Komen inform people that high calorie, high fat diets significantly contribute to breast cancer. What the heck, Susan G. Komen?

And in another instance Susan G. Komen raised money through Yoplait which contained recombinant bovine growth hormones, (rBGH), also known to be linked to certain types of breast cancer.

Of course...who can forget that Susan G. Komen was also famously in the middle of a controversy just a couple years ago in 2012 when they appointed as its Senior Vice President the conservative Republican and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. After which, the organization ended breast cancer screening through Planned Parenthood.

But back to the odd alliances. Susan G. Komen is clearly very creative in its fund raising efforts. Surely they can avoid partnerships with companies that could serve to dilute the meaning of Breast Cancer Awareness, and companies which are actually contributing to the problem. If breast cancer awareness pink falls into just being regarded as a cynical PR move to improve public image, a wonderful and powerful tool against breast cancer will have been squandered. Does it seem worth it?

[Image Credit: Baker Hughes]