October is fast approaching, with its annual deluge of pink ribbons and cause marketing campaigns that leverage emotions surrounding breast cancer to sell products. In past years, PRWatch has reported on questionable "pinkwashed" products like buckets of fried fast food, cringeworthy "I Heart Boobies" bracelets marketed to teenagers, and even a pink "breast cancer awareness" Smith and Wesson handgun.
This year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- the nonprofit organization that created the corporate phenomenon of pinkwashing -- is hawking its own highly questionable pinkwashed product: a perfume called "Promise Me" that retails for $59.00 a bottle and reportedly contains chemicals, some of which are not listed on the label, that are a suspected hormone disruptor, a known neurotoxin and an anticoagulant banned for use in human food, respectively.
Breast Cancer Action, a grassroots organization that exposes the role of corporations in cancer "awareness" campaigns, points out that some of the chemicals in Komen's "Promise Me" perfume are categorized either as toxic and hazardous, have not been evaluated adequately for human safety, or are known to have negative health effects. One of them is galaxolide, a synthetic musk that bioaccumulates in fat tissue and is suspected to be a hormone disruptor. Galaxolide can be detected in blood, breast milk and newborns. Another is toluene, a petroleum-based solvent and neurotoxin with known negative health effects (pdf), according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Toluene is banned by the International Fragrance Association. A third chemical of concern is coumarin, an anticoagulant initially marketed as a pesticide against rodents, and and additive the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned as a human food additive decades ago. Moreover, the author of a breast cancer blog called Uneasy Pink calculated, based on Susan G. Komen's budgetary profile, that after overhead, packaging and marketing, only $1.51, or just 3 percent of Promise Me's $59.00 retail price will actually go to funding breast cancer research.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure has heard the concerns about its perfume brand and says it is taking steps to reformulate the perfume "to remove any doubt about the ingredients." But while they are reformulating it, the original product is still being sold in stores and online. Breast Cancer Action has issued an action alert on their Think Before You Pink blog urging people to ask Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop pinkwashing and recall its remaining "Promise Me" perfume immediately.