Wretched Pink Ribbons. Again.
So here we are again awash in these wretched pink ribbons. They must constitute the most successful marketing campaign ever.
And they are so pernicious. They make us feel touched by and involved in something significant by merely wearing them or buying something with their picture attached.
But what do they say? Nothing, except that thousands of women still go through breast cancer every year. And that is the problem. There is so much that needs to be said that gets buried under the ribbons.
What do we need to be saying?
We need to say that detection is not prevention. Actually bringing down incidence rates has been completely removed from all important discussions. We repeat to women for them to individually bring down their risk without a proper public health strategy to bring down breast cancer rates with a strong, public health program that incorporates environmental health as a central component. Also, in working to prevent breast cancer, we work to prevent a range of diseases.
Overwhelmed by pink ribbon blues?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—in case you haven’t noticed, despite pink things all around you demanding your dollars. Breast Cancer Action Quebec is very skeptical of pink ribbon campaigns and the commercialization of breast cancer.
It is well known that companies try to reinforce their image and boost their bottom line by associating themselves with a good cause. But who really benefits, the cause or the company? What if the very products sold—through the promise of finding a cure—are actually contributing to the problem?
After spending a year as a volunteer with Breast Cancer Action Quebec, the organization became the site of my practicum placement for my Masters of Public Health degree. I came to BCAQc with a background in exploring how the health of our environment impacts food security and our reproductive health. I was interested in doing my practicum at BCAQc to learn how to apply my new public health skills to social-justice oriented work. BCAQc represented everything I hoped public health could embody: an empowering approach to holistically confronting some of the most compelling environmental and social issues of our time.
Most of my work centered around the Health Connections youth program, which I assisted in the development of and constructed a program logic model for. I also undertook an impact evaluation, creating a questionnaire to evaluate students before and after the program to assess the impacts we made.
We were interested in evaluating if Health Connections increased students’ environmental health literacy, which is embodied in the development of knowledge about environmental health, positive attitudes towards it, and the skills and capacity to take action to create environmentally healthy communities.
What I didn’t expect was how much my own environmental health literacy would improve over the course of my internship as well! The learning is already clear when I look in my kitchen or bathroom, since over the course of my internship I was moved to replace my plastic cookware with glass, and toxicant-laden cosmetics with homemade alternatives.
I truly feel like I’ve learned more about the confronting environmental issues our planet is facing than I ever could have in my courses - and more importantly, how to act on these issues. Rather than just knowing the definition of the precautionary principle, I’ve been able to put it into action by leading DIY workshops on toxic-free body products, and teaching high school students about the unregulated risks present in our cosmetic ingredients and the pesticide-filled foods we eat. I am thankful that my practicum exposed me to complex issues like ecotoxicology, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and environmental racism, which have set me down new exciting and unanticipated academic and professional paths.
I am so grateful and enthusiastic for the opportunity to learn with and from BCAQc this year!
Fighting Endocrine Disruptors, One Lip Balm at a Time
A great article by Carly Welham, master's student in Public Health and intern at BCAQc, explains the politics of "Why We DIY"
Over the past few months, Breast Cancer Action Quebec interns have been holding DIY workshops across universities in Montreal, meeting with dozens of young people interested in creating body products free of toxic substances. We have been hosting conversations about how chemicals in products that we use every day affect our bodies, our health, and our environment.
Our reality is that everyday we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals that are harmful to us. As a women's health organization whose mission is to work for the prevention of breast cancer through the elimination of environmental toxicants linked to the disease, there are many reasons why we choose to create alternatives to body products with these toxic ingredients.
Your Triclosan Actions and the UN on Pesticides
With the arrival of spring, we would like to share with you a round up of some of the environmental health news we are keeping on top of. In a few weeks we will be sending our information on our spring activities. It would be wonderful to see you at one of our events soon!
On March 8th 2017, the UN human rights council made public a scathing report which is very clear: pesticides, many of which contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are harmful to human health and the environment and they are used in the service of industry profit, not to combat world hunger as agro-chemical business leads us to believe.
Update on Action against Triclosan
Last year we informed you about the actions of environmental and health groups concerning Triclosan. This ubiquitous antibacterial agent is also an important EDC, is ecotoxic and implicated in antibacterial resistance. You told us you were happy to sign onto petitions asking the government to ban this toxic substance from household and personal care products. Here you will find the final statement, coordinated by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), that we and 40 other like-minded organizations signed onto and sent to The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health on February 24, 2017.
Why We Need to Reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)
As many of you know, our chemical regulatory system allows chemicals to go into production and circulation without proof of their safety. We are then required to fight a reactive battle, toxic substance by toxic substance, to prove their harm and get them out of circulation and out of our environment. In many cases, our exposure to toxic substances continues for decades after bans go into effect.
Stay tuned to learn about local actions that you can participate in this spring!
Breast Cancer Action Quebec is the recipient of a special gift!
To our delight, BCAQc has been chosen as the charity being honoured at this year’s spring concert of Montreal’s Yellow Door Choir on May 26 and 27, 2017.
Since 1983, this talented choir has been performing and partnering with local charities using their concerts to support and raise awareness for the good work these groups do. And what good company we are in! Take a look at the list of over 60 community organizations that the Choir has supported throughout its three decades of singing.
Not only does the Yellow Door Choir donate the profits from the concert’s ticket sales to us but every penny that is made during the intermission bake sales is ours too! We will be posting information on how you can get involved by baking your favorite cookies, cupcakes or squares for the bake sale.
Yellow Door Choir, under the direction of the Roxanne Martel
Spring Concert, May 26 and 27 at the Unitarian Church of Montreal 5035 de Maisonneuve O. (Métro Vendôme). Tickets: $20; Students and seniors: $15
Take a listen to some highlights from last spring’s concert.
Stay tuned for more news about this.
Jennifer Beeman, Director, Breast Cancer Action Quebec
Written in response to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October 2016
I am in a strange situation. I am director of a breast cancer organization and I really don’t know what “promoting awareness” of breast cancer means.
Does it mean repeating the fact that one in nine women in Canada will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer at some time in her life? Even when this tells us nothing of what is being done to bring down that statistic (very little)?
Repeating “early diagnosis saves lives”? Even though this doesn’t explain to women that early diagnosis leads to a serious problem of overdiagnosis, which women really don’t understand and about which we are doing very little?
Repeating that we should “run for the cure”? Though this does nothing to prevent our daughters and granddaughters getting the disease?
BCAQc relies on membership dues and private donations to stay in operation. Membership entitles you to advance notice of seminars and workshops as well as a subscription to our electronic newsletter— BCAQc Connected.
A strong membership also helps to substantiate our financial applications for government grants and private foundations. Please consider joining us today!
For twenty five years — with your support — BCAQc has been working hard to get vital information about environmental and chemical links to breast cancer to the public, and we now know that our message is being heard.
We ask you to consider a financial gift to Breast Cancer Action Quebec to help us to continue to get this vital information to the public.
There are many ways you can be involved: volunteer, write a letter to the editor, book an educational workshop for your school, community group or work place.
Engage with us, follow us on social media, share your opinions and ideas – take BCAQc’s message to your community! Be a voice for a change!