‘Pinkwashing’ comes to the Oil Patch

October is breast cancer awareness month, which means the annual debate over “pinkwashing” is flaring anew.

At the center of this year’s pinkwashing outrage this week is a company that manufacturers drill bits for oil and gas fracking.

Baker Hughes is sending pink drill bits to the Oil Patch, and making sure you know about it so that you can check for breast cancer — or so the theory goes.

“We’re doing our bit for the cure,” the company says on its Facebook page.

The campaign started by accident. A customer asked for a pink drill bit instead of a gold-colored one for reasons that had nothing to do with breast cancer. But then the company decided to pitch it as a breast cancer awareness tool.

There was immediate blowback this week.

Sandra Steingraber at EcoWatch points out the irony:

Here’s what I’m wagering that roughneck does not learn from the literature shipped with his drill bit this October: I’m betting he does not read about the recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that found dangerous levels of benzene in the urine of workers in the unconventional (aka fracking) oil and gas industry. Benzene is a proven human carcinogen.

According to Bernard Goldstein, MD, toxicologist and former dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, “These workers are at higher risk for leukemia. The longer, the more frequently they do this, the more likely they are to get leukemia particularly if the levels are high.”