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Next Year, Let's Skip Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Can the pink ribbon be saved from corporate cause marketing, and actually mean something for women's health?


Can the pink ribbon be saved from corporate cause marketing, and actually mean something for women's health?

I love autumn, in large part for the colors: orange-gold leaves, red apples, multi-colored squashes. In the past few years, though, it seems that pink has become the most prominent October hue. It shows up everywhere: NFL players’ chin guards, inflatable rafts for playing beer pong, buckets of KFC chicken, ads for cosmetics. Even the big diesel truck that delivers my home heating oil is painted an unmistakable pastel pink now synonymous with “breast cancer awareness.”

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Chemicals Can Affect Unborn Babies, Too

A new Nick Kristof op ed reveals that it's not just us who has to worry about chemical exposures-it's the unborn, too.



The excellent Nicholas Kristof has another, yes, excellent piece in yesterday's New York Times. He has written quite a bit about concern about human exposure to chemicals before, from the ones suspected to have links to obesity and behavioral issues to the ones turning boy fish into girl fish—and doing similar hormonal gymnastics in our own bodies.

His concern, which I share, is the reason we have developed the No More Dirty Looks series at GOOD (well that and because it's fun to tell people what's really in their toothpaste, and to share homemade beauty product recipes) and it's why Alexandra and I wrote the book of the same name. As Kristof always points out, there's too much we don't know about the effects of our chemical exposure, and what we do know is deeply unsettling.

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The other night, 60 Minutes ran a spot about phthalates, a category of chemical plasticizers that has been linked to gender-bendy birth defects in baby boys. Phthalates, as the episode made clear, are everywhere. They're in the plastic in your car, your shower curtain, your moisturizer, your hairspray, your air freshener, your makeup, your cologne, and your kids' toys. So what to do?

First, let's make one thing clear: The effects of phthalate exposure have been fairly conclusively established, and that research is acknowledged by countless public-health experts and environmental-health organizations—but not by the FDA. (Naturally, the chemical and cosmetic trade organizations that sell and use these ingredients also claim phthalates are safe, but never mind them.)

Some phthalates are already banned in toys. There's a growing feeling that they should be removed from personal-care products as well, because their ubiquity in beauty products is suspected to be the reason why so many baby boys are born with hypospadias (which is a birth defect where the opening of the urethra is in the wrong place) and undescended testes (which is exactly what it sounds like), and why so many girls have breasts before their 10th birthday.

Clearly, we'd all do well to avoid them to whatever extent we can. But the 60 Minutes spot felt a little hopeless, as if to say "They're everywhere, so live with it." And a recent New Yorker feature about BPA and phthalates, while thorough, left a lot of people scratching their heads.

There are a lot of instances where we can't control our phthalate exposure, it's true—but there are tons where we can. Here are some easy places to start:\n\n

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