During breast cancer awareness month, the pink bow is ubiquitous.
It’s displayed on the backs of boxes, pinned on blouses and bumper stickered on cars.
But many shoppers assume a percentage of the proceeds are being donated to a breast cancer nonprofit, even though that may not always be the case, said one consumer advocate.
“There are no rules and no amount of money companies have to donate to use the pink ribbon,” said Daniel Pollock, a chemist who coined the term “pink washing.’’
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“Anybody can just put a pink ribbon on their product. Don’t be fooled by that.”
Pollock, founder of PUR attitude skin care line, also is concerned that people assume products displaying the pink ribbon must be safe to use or eat, which isn’t always the case.
“A lot of these products contain cancer-causing chemicals so while you buy a product thinking you are doing a good thing, you may not be helping anybody other than the marketer selling the product,” he said. “You may also be doing yourself a disservice.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer and National Toxicology Program published a report that lists more than 50 known carcinogens to humans. These chemicals – parabens, glycols, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and artificial dyes – are found in cosmetics products and foods.
Scambook, a consumer advocacy platform, says consumers should make direct donations to the nonprofits, should be wary of email solicitations and should read the fine print.
Pollock’s advice: Know what products to avoid, read the labels, and don’t be afraid to call the manufacturer and ask if – and how much – money the company is donating to breast cancer organizations.
“If manufacturers are spending money or donating to a charity, trust me, they will be bragging about it,” he said. “If they are, by all means, buy that favorite product or send a check to the organization of your choice. But please don’t falsely believe that a pink ribbon means they’re doing good.”