Research charities to prevent scams

Columnist and Columnist

The month of October isn’t just known for its chilly weather, vibrantly colored leaves and pumpkins arranged on porch steps.

It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, during which people sport pink jewelry, T-shirts, brooches, scarves and anything else that can be pink-ified or affixed with a pink ribbon in order to raise funds for and spread awareness about breast cancer.

The seemingly endless list of “pink products” supporters can buy includes candles, kitchen appliances, pens, light bulbs, cordless drills, binoculars, scissors, humidifiers and handguns (yes, handguns).

Even the National Football League gets in on the pink promotion by using the color on its websites, advertisements and players’ apparel.

In the past, I never thought twice about the “pink products” I’d see online, in the checkout line at the store, or on a classmate’s key chain.

I thought it was great that consumers could donate to a good cause in a fun and eye-catching way.

But after seeing more and more products from more and more corporations, I started to wonder how much of the money from consumers’ purchases of the products actually goes to the cause, and how much money the corporations selling them accumulate.

Is it possible that corporations are using breast cancer as a tool to make a quick buck?

In her essay entitled “Welcome to Cancerland,” author Barbara Ehrenreich, who was diagnosed with the disease over a decade ago, wrote “‘Awareness’ beats secrecy and stigma of course, but I can’t help noticing that the existential space in which a friend has earnestly advised me to ‘confront [my] mortality’ bears a striking resemblance to the mall.”

It seems consumers like me aren’t the only ones who are concerned.

Indeed, the sheer number of “pink products” on the market has prompted organization Breast Cancer Action to create an informative website called “Think Before You Pink” to teach consumers about the hidden dangers that come with certain corporations pushing pink products, or what they call “pink-washing.”

According to the website, the pink ribbon symbol is not owned by anyone, so any company can slap one on a product, making the consumer think they are donating to breast cancer research, even if sales from the product do not, in fact, donate to the cause.

Other companies may have a set cap on the amount of donations it will give, no matter how many of their pink ribbon products are sold.

When the maximum amount has been raised, they will continue to sell the product, gaining profits.

And, possibly most alarming, is the reality that many companies sell “pink products” that are actually linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

The site describes as an example a perfume from Susan G. Komen for the Cure called Promise Me that contained “unlisted chemicals that are regulated as toxic and hazardous, have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and have demonstrated negative health effects.”

This product should never have hit the shelves.

I urge any consumer to do a bit of research before buying a “pink product.”

Find out what organization your money is going to, how much of it will be donated to them instead of profiting the seller and see if the seller is actually doing more harm than good.

Also, Google the product and see what kind of work the organization is actually doing for people with breast cancer.

Whatever you do, don’t blindly buy.

Make sure your money is going to a good cause.

Buying pink products made by actual breast cancer survivors and making a direct donation to a charity of your choice are also good ideas.

This year, and every year, make sure you think before you pink.

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