Having Solved All The World’s Other Problems, The EPA Takes On The Deadly Scourge Of…Hand Soap

That’s right. Hand soap.

Your tax dollars, hard at work:

Antimicrobial hand soaps and body washes are very popular, especially in cold and flu season. They’ve been found to be effective in limiting the spread of bacteria, which is why they’re so popular. But, like anything people like, there are people who don’t like it, and the people who don’t like something are rarely content until their will is imposed upon everyone else.

In this case, the people who don’t like it are the left-wing environmentalists who don’t seem to like much of anything humans concoct to improve people’s quality of life. Their usual modus operandi is being followed in this case. Rather than trying to make a case for or against something, these groups have taken to the courts. Why the courts? Because the government can’t ban something, in this case the antimicrobial agent Triclosan, without proof of some sort that it’s harmful, whereas the courts, let’s just say they’re a little less constrained.

This hasn’t stopped some liberal politicians from calling for a ban of Triclosan, too. Not wanting to be left behind in any potential hysteria, Congressman Ed Markey, the leading voice in Congress calling for regulating the internet, and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter have called for a ban. Note Slaughter’s letter and the artful use of phrases like “have raised concerns about possible environmental effects” and “potential effects on human health.” That’s a lot of qualifiers, but they’re needed because there isn’t any proof. But Congress so rarely lets proof get in the way of a good story.

The folks at Smart Girl Politics have a petition going to oppose efforts to ban this substance without any concrete scientific findings that there is, in fact, a problem.

The environmentalists pushing this issue want the EPA and/or the FDA to ban Triclosan, but there seems to be little evidence that the substance is problematic. It’s been used in anti-bacterial soap since the 1920′s, and the last time I checked there haven’t been any health epidemics kicked off by the use of Triclosan. What’s more, the FDA reports that “Triclosan is not currently known to be hazardous to humans,” though they couch that statement in a bit of uncertainty.

Scientists, after all, never like making absolute statements. They’ll never admit that something couldn’t be true. Only that they don’t know something to be true.

Again, it’s hard to imagine that something we’ve been using since the 1920′s is suddenly harmful. Frankly, it’s all a bit reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s infamous campaign against the use of DDT. Carson insisted that DDT, then used widely as a deterrent to mosquitoes and other pests, caused cancer. But the link she made was superficial, and has never been proved. Despite that, government acted and as of 2004 DDT is banned for most uses world wide. Now Malaria death rates, which had been trending down as DDT was used to suppress the spread of the disease through insect bites, have spiked.

Obviously, companies should be prevented from using substances that are harmful to we humans either in the short term or the long term. But the government should only enact such preventions when they’re sure the substances being targeted are, in fact, harmful.

Because the repercussions of a bad decision can be terrible.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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