Susan G. Komen partnership with Baker Hughes stirs online outrage

The Susan G. Komen foundation might want to rethink its partnership with oilfield services company Baker Hughes.

On Oct. 3., the foundation announced it would coat thousands of the company’s drill bits used for hydraulic fracturing with pink paint to help spread breast cancer awareness to the oil field. But outrage has been building on social media, with some commenters pointing out that at least one study has linked the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process with an increased risk of breast cancer.

An online petition on Credo is also calling for Susan G. Komen to end the partnership. As of Oct. 10 at 11:32 a.m., the petition has already gathered 12,243 signatures.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy for Komen to claim to be fighting to cure breast cancer, while helping the fracking industry clean up its much-deserved toxic reputation for exposing people to some of the very same toxins that cause breast cancer in the first place,” the organizers of the petition wrote.

There’s no conclusive link between hydraulic fracturing and cancer, but some studies suggest that exposure to benzene, a common chemical used in the process, is tied to an increased risk of the disease.

In an Oct. 9 column, industry blog Energy in Depth accused critics of Susan G. Komen and Baker Hughes of “spreading mis- and disinformation about oil and gas development,” and called them a “fringe faction.”

Susan G. Komen responded to the controversy, saying in a statement that Baker Hughes made “a flat donation to Komen, not tied to sales of the pink drill bits or any other product. We appreciate the efforts of Baker Hughes employees to show support for women and men facing breast cancer.”

Reporter Rhiannon Meyers contributed to this story.