RIP Barbara Brenner (Breast Cancer Action)

Barbara Brenner , long time leader of Breast Cancer Action, was a hero of the fight against environmentally-related cancer–among many other matters–and a consistent challenger of the profit-oriented “cancer industry” symbolized by the “American Cancer Society” and “Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”

She passed on May 10 at the age of 61 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

From Breast Cancer Action’s site:  In Memoriam: Barbara A. Brenner, 1951-2013

The New York Times said:  Barbara Brenner, Breast Cancer Iconoclast, Dies at 61

To me, Brenner symbolized the moral compass so often lacking in what passes for advocacy.  In 2000 I had occasion to write an alert, including:

“American Cancer Society lobbyist promotes Philpower incinerator …

Communities in Delaware fight battle after battle to protect themselves from cancer-causing incinerator pollution.  Philpower Corp., from North Carolina, is trying to put a “construction and demolition debris” incinerator in New Castle County, DE.  Philpower has hired lobbyist Robert Maxwell (302.777.7445), who also works for the American Cancer Society (ACS).  (Maxwell’s filing with the Delaware Public Integrity Commission calls Philpower an “environmentally advanced power company.”)

The Mission Statement of the ACS ( is:

“The American Cancer Society is  the nationwide community based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by  preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.”

Philpower, according to permit applications, would put out as much as ten thousand pounds per day of health-threatening air pollutants. The Total Trace Metal Emission, including cancer causing chromium, arsenic, lead, cadmium and nickel, would be up to 625 pounds per day (over a quarter of a million pounds per year).

Pat Scarborough, ACS Regional Executive said: ‘He does a great job for us, what else he does is up to him.’  We were not able to get a response from ACS national offices.”

Afterwards, we ran a campaign to get the ACS to fire the incinerator lobbyist, which ACS eventually did.  But they didn’t learn from the experience, and later hired lobbyist Rhett Ruggerio, who, during the same time period, represented the American Chemistry Council, NRG Energy (operator of coal burning power plants in Delaware), and Valero Energy/Delaware City Refinery, the biggest polluter of Delaware’s air, water, and land. (Data from the Delaware Public Integrity Commission.)

Similarly, in Minnesota ACS employs two lobbyists, Rondell Reid LeBeau II and Matthew S Schafer , who also work for Hennepin County, owner of a large garbage incinerator where it wants to burn more garbage, increasing health-damaging emissions, but doesn’t want an Environmental Impact Statement first. (Data from Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.)

Of course, ACS and Komen have many times the resources of Breast Cancer Action, because they serve corporate-polluter interests, primarily by diverting attention from their clients’ contributions to cancer and other disease.  But people like Brenner are doing the real work.

Her last blog post, three days before her passing:

Thanks and Blessings

Posted on May 7, 2013 by bbzinger

As my life comes to an end, I want to thank readers of this blog (and our Caring Bridge site for reading all that I have written while I deal with ALS. I�m sure some of what I wrote was difficult to read, some of what I wrote helped others, while other pieces just made you think. This blog will be up awhile � and some ambitious person might turn it into a book. If you think of others who might benefit from anything I�ve written, please send it along to them.

I have been blessed to lead a rich life, full of love and culture and travel and work that had meaning for me. I have no regrets except that I got ALS in the first place.

I have met amazing people both in person and on-line. Everyone I have come in contact with has had something unique to offer the world. The world is a better place because these people are or were in it. Some of these people I have mentored (and you know who you are), others have taught me. What I know about all of these people is that I have been blessed to know them, and that they will succeed at what they set their hearts and minds to do.

In the Jewish tradition there is a Priestly Blessing. I copy below it because it is what I wish for all readers of these words:

May the Lord bless you

and keep you;

May the Lord make his face shine on you

This is sort of what the priestly blessing looks like at my synagogue, except that the rabbi and a number of members of priestly tribe are women

and be gracious to you;

May the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply