Breast cancer awareness heads to oil patch on a pink drill bit

Pink firearms. Pink NFL jerseys. Even pink buckets of fried chicken. Now pink drill bits?

As Baker Hughes joins a string of other companies coating their products in the rose-colored shade to raise awareness about breast cancer, some may wonder if the pink ribbon campaign has gone a bit too far. After all, drill bits spend most of their lives miles underground breaking up geologic formations in oil patches where a fraction of workers are women.

But the Houston-based oil field services company says that’s precisely the point.

“Our hope is from the water cooler to the rig site to the coffee shop to everywhere, someone gets this information to their spouses, their girlfriends, their daughters so we can create awareness and end this disease forever,” said Bill Debo, director of operations for U.S. land drill bits at Baker Hughes.

On a thousand drill bits this October, Baker Hughes swapped out its traditional gold paint for the classic shade of pink specially ordered to match the color used by Susan G. Komen, the philanthropic organization that promotes education, research and advocacy for breast cancer.

Each steel bit — weighing 85 to 260 pounds — is painted by hand at the company’s drill bit manufacturing facility in The Woodlands and then shipped to the drill site in a pink-topped container containing information packets with breast health facts, including breast cancer risk factors and screening tips.

The hope is that the roughneck who cracks open that container learns a little more about the disease that afflicts 200,000 women per year.

The campaign started almost by  accident. A customer asked for a custom-made pink bit, not related to breast cancer awareness, but employees who liked the finished product pitched the idea to use it as a breast cancer awareness tool.

For Debo, the campaign is personal.

“In 1976, when I was 17, a senior in high school, my mother died of breast cancer,” he said. “So it’s really important for me to be involved in this and do what we can to end breast cancer forever and save lives.”