We continue to put pressure on Breast Cancer Now (BCN) to acknowledge environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer. As the UK’s leading breast cancer research charity, we argue that it is incomprehensible that they continue to refute the body of evidence that makes just these links.
Just recently, we sent an open letter to both BCN and ASDA with regard to their ‘Tickled Pink’ and ‘Be Your Breast Friend’ campaign concerning breast awareness with pink till receipts as the communication tool. This campaign triggered a number of serious concerns about the use of certain ingredients in the ASDA pink and other till receipts and, linked to this, the various public ‘assurances’ from Breast Cancer Now about the science in relation to ‘chemicals in the environment” ie that there is no link to breast cancer risk.
Those expressing concern (in fact, disbelief) about the ASDA/BCN campaign included leading experts in the area of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Our open letter was co-signed with colleagues from Chemtrust, Breast Cancer Prevention Scotland (formerly Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland) and The Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group (Derry)
You can read the full letter below:
OPEN LETTER TO ASDA AND BREAST CANCER NOW IN RELATION TO ‘BE YOUR BREAST FRIEND’ AND ‘TICKLED PINK ‘ TILL RECEIPTS
Dear ASDA, and Breast Cancer Now,
We are writing to you to follow up on our recent questions and exchange on twitter relating to your ‘Tickled Pink’ and ‘Be Your Breast Friend’ campaign with ASDA.
You will have become aware of the serious concerns this campaign triggered, as expressed in tweets from a variety of sources such as Dr.Leo Trasande, Chemtrust, Pink Ladies, Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland and ourselves, here at From Pink to Prevention. Several studies were referred to during twitter exchanges and are listed below in the end notes for your information.
The signatories to this letter share ongoing concerns about the use of certain ingredients in these ASDA pink and other till receipts and linked to this, the various public ‘assurances’ from Breast Cancer Now about the science in relation to ‘chemicals in the environment” ie that there is no link to breast cancer risk.
We have outlined our questions below, which we would very much appreciate answers to.
As of today, although ASDA has responded on twitter to say there is no Bisphenol A (BPA) in the ‘Tickled Pink’ till receipts, we are still awaiting a response to the question about what chemicals and other ingredients are used in your till receipts?
Dr. Leo Trasande[i], international expert on children’s environmental health, has stated that there are forty bisphenols in current use and “what little we know about the alternatives to BPA, for example BPS, is that they are oestrogenic, toxic to embryos and persistent in the environment. BPA free is not bisphenol free”.
As you will already know, BPA is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) and has been classified in the EU as toxic for human reproduction. All manufacturers, importers, or suppliers of BPA must classify and label mixtures containing BPA as toxic for reproduction category 1B by 1 March 2018. This means that companies will be better informed about the potential hazardous effects and how workers can be protected. BPA is listed as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) [ii] who regulate the European Chemicals legislation REACH. The UK is currently governed by this legislation.
From 2020 BPA will be banned in EU till receipts and, other bisphenols with similar hormone disrupting properties such as Bisphenol S are currently under review by ECHA. Other health effects linked with exposure to BPA include prostate and breast cancer, decline in sperm quality, early onset of puberty and neurological problems such as ADHA. ‘CHEM Trust have looked into BPS and other bisphenols in detail in a recent report, “Toxic Soup”, and have also been in discussions with the ECHA and the European Food Safety Agency about controls on bisphenols [iii].”
There is more useful and easy to follow information here on EDCs and their impacts on our health.
The main issue with EDCs is that exposure to very low levels can cause considerable health impacts and the fact is that we are all exposed to multiple EDCs from a variety of sources daily, through our work, in our homes and in the wider environment. The overarching conclusion from a recent EU Horizon 2020 project “EDC-MixRisk” is that the current regulation of man-made chemicals systematically underestimates the health risks associated with combined exposures to EDCs or potential EDCs[iv].
Exposure to this ‘toxic soup’ can have adverse health effects across generations. iii Annual costs related to Endocrine Disruptor exposure are estimated to be between €163 billion – €196 billion [v].
In relation to till receipts specifically, this is of deep concern since BPA is absorbed through the skin. Customers – in particular women – are encouraged to handle and keep these pink receipts with the breast check information on the back.
Needless to say, those with much greater exposure are the women and men cashiers who handle thousands of till receipts in the course of their work, containing bisphenols and/or other endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
It must also be said that there is potential for women cashiers who maybe thinking about having a baby, or who are currently pregnant, to be exposed to harmful levels of BPA. Many EDCs, in particular BPA, can cause foetal abnormalities in the first trimester[vi]. They may also bio-accumulate in fat or body fluids. Standard work practice may be to move pregnant workers to the tills which is of great concern.
The ‘Tickled Pink’ case illustrates what many organisations, have long argued, that the time is way overdue for the precautionary principle to be adopted. And ASDA and Breast Cancer Now should avoid any future mixed messaging on products containing ingredients linked to breast cancer.
Questions for ASDA
- Can we have a complete listing of ‘Tickled Pink’ ingredients and ASDA regular till receipts – what they are made from and what chemical treatments are applied?
- Can you guarantee there are no Bisphenols in the ‘Tickled Pink’ till receipts?
- In relation to workers exposure, was there a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) assessment done for these new receipts or any receipts used in ASDA stores?
- Can you clarify what decision-making process was taken that resulted in ASDA deciding to avoid BPA in the ‘Tickled Pink’ receipts, citing you worked with your suppliers to avoid using BPA? Strangely, this is at odds with BCN’s views on ‘chemicals in the environment’ (ie no risk to breast cancer).
- Does ASDA have any clarification of their own approach to BPA in light of the contradictory info on the Breast Cancer Now link which advises women that links between breast cancer and ‘chemicals in the environment’ are myths?
Questions for Breast Cancer Now
- Was BCN involved in the ASDA process to avoid using BPA in the pink till receipts?
- If so, did BCN see any contradiction with the advice they carry on their website, which states that ‘there’s no conclusive evidence that exposure to chemicals in the environment increases your risk of developing breast cancer’?
- Can we see the scientific review taken by BCN to reach a decision where by you stated: “there is still no conclusive evidence for a link between BPA and breast cancer”?
- Can we know why BCN is afraid to inform adult women about the considerable and scientific links between the environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer? You stated that you “wouldn’t want women to worry unnecessarily about their till receipts”?
- During the course of the twitter exchange BCN referred to its webpage Myths about the Causes of Breast Cancer. We would like to request a complete literature review in relation to the conclusions you reached for this piece of public information about there being no evidence to link breast cancer to chemicals in the environment?
- Why do you consider the scientific evidence from established institutions linking BPA to adverse health effects such as reproductive disorders ‘weak’?
Thank you in advance for your considered response to our questions.
Yours sincerely The Pink Ladies Cancer Support Group (Derry), Breast Cancer Prevention Scotland, ChemTrust and From Pink to Prevention.
[iii] From BPA to BPZ: a toxic soup? https://www.chemtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/chemtrust-toxicsoup-mar-18.pdf ChemTrust 2018
[v] Endocrine Disruptors: From Scientific Evidence to Human Health Protection. Study requested by PETI committee for the European Parliament. March 2019 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2019/608866/IPOL_STU(2019)608866_EN.pdf
[vi] Paulose T, et al. Reprod Toxicol. 2015. Estrogens in the wrong place at the wrong time: Fetal BPA exposure and mammary cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25277313/?i=11&from=bisphenol%20soto
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