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Activists Urge Susan G. Komen Cut Ties With Fracking Industry

Health and breast cancer awareness advocates delivered 150,000 petitions to the Susan G. Komen offices in Pittsburgh Friday, urging the nonprofit to cut ties with the oil and gas industry.

Groups, including Breast Cancer Action, New Voices Pittsburgh and Food and Water Watch, are urging Komen to refuse a $100,000 check from oil and gas extraction company Baker Hughes, which, according to, saw a net income of roughly $1.6 billion over the last 12 months.

Along with its one-time donation, Baker Hughes will use 1,000 pink bits in its drilling to raise breast cancer awareness. The bits will be shipped worldwide and are to include breast cancer information in their packaging.

While some would say any donation is a good donation when it comes to breast cancer research, Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, disagrees.

“The ends do not justify the means,” she said. “It is the most ludicrous and just hypocritical profit cycle for a nonprofit to raise millions of dollars in order to try to cure the very disease that their funders are helping to create.”

The fracking processes use more than 700 chemicals, many of which, such as benzene, are carcinogenic, meaning they are capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

“You have a nonprofit that is raising millions of dollars to try to cure a disease,” Jaggar said, “and instead of taking steps to stop this disease, the same nonprofit is partnering up with industries that are causing the disease; Industries like fracking.”

But Managing Director of Communications for Komen, Andrea Rader, said its connections to the oil and gas industry have no impact on the Baker Hughes contribution.

“It’s not tied to a sale,” she said. “The company has offered to give us a $100,000 donation as part of their effort to support their employees.”

Jaggar argued Baker Hughes is using Komen to “pinkwash” its image.

“It’s nonprofits like Komen being willing to provide PR, public relations cover, to the toxic industries that are fueling this epidemic that are really complicit in the breast cancer epidemic,” Jaggar said.

Komen came under criticism in 2010 when it partnered with Kentucky Fried Chicken to sell pink “Buckets for the Cure.” At the same time, Komen and other health organizations were finding and distributing information that high calorie, high fat diets contributed to breast cancer.

In the past, Komen has teamed up with Yoplait, whose products include recombinant bovine growth hormones, another compound linked to breast cancer.

According to Jaggar, Komen’s connection to the oil and gas industry doesn’t end with donations and drill bits. The nonprofit’s chair, Linda Custard, is a general partner for Custard/Pitts Land and Cattle Company, a real estate and energy company in Dallas. Her husband, William Custard is the president and CEO of Dallas Production Inc., an oil and gas operating company.

Activists will also hold a protest Sunday outside of Heinz Field where Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead will give the $100,000 check to Komen founder Nancy Brinker.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."