On Wednesday, April 22, members of Protect Our Breasts will host the organization’s second annual Earth Day Yogathon to spread awareness about the harmful toxins found in everyday items that can increase the risks of breast cancer.
The Yogathon is an all-day event, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside of the Fine Arts Center. Throughout the day, instructors from the UMass Recreation Center, Newmass Yoga, and Yoga Center Amherst will teach nine different styles of yoga. According to senior Natasha Merchant, there will be tables with free organic products at every session, including RUNA tea and Mamma Chia.
Protect Our Breasts was founded at UMass Amherst in October 2011. Since then, the communication initiative has expanded to five college campuses in the Northeast. The executive board is housed in the Isenberg School of Management and meets in person seven hours per week.
Each team member, according to senior Lia Delaney, has an area of expertise. She focuses on science and research while others specialize in topics like personal care or event planning. Either way, she said, team members work closely with one another and share similar passions.
“Everyone really cares about this mission of being able to educate others,” said Delaney. “These risks exist and you can change [them]; you can empower yourself and empower others to make a change.”
Senior chair and board member Alysse Foley said that the Yogathon is meant to start conversations about preventing cancer. College-age women are the population with the most risk for breast cancer due to exposure to harmful toxins, according to the Institute of Medical Science. Peer-to-peer communication, said Foley, is the best way to alert students to potential dangers.
“It’s really important for people to understand that what they’re supporting is an effort to [communicate] with their peers about what can help them avoid getting cancer later in life,” she said. “That’s really what our effort is all about.”
Advisor Cynthia Barstow, professor of sustainable marketing, explained that all of the products distributed by Protect Our Breasts are certified organic and scientifically approved for safe use.
“Science is [important] to our process,” said Barstow. “It’s a combination of transdisciplinary projects. It’s an extensive commitment.”
Each year, the executive board travels to Natural Products Expos, one in California and another in Maryland, to meet with organic companies. There, Protect Our Breasts members consult with companies they hope will donate safe products. Head of fundraising Mary Lynch said that the group works with companies that are “working to keep toxins out of products and [are] committed to the See a Safer Future campaign.”
If companies decide to partner with Protect Our Breasts, they send a Material Safety Data Sheet— which lists the chemicals included in product packaging— to the executive board. Later, a team of four scientists reviews the ingredients and decides whether to approve the product for safe use or not. If there are pesticides or other harmful chemicals that could leech into products, Protect Our Breasts will deny partnership.
Both teams and individuals are encouraged to register for the Yogathon. Tickets will be sold on site for $15 the day of the event.
Katie Bowler can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @bowler_kathryn.