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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  • badlands4

    How utterly bizarre. Utterly bizarre!

    People overdose on antibacterial everything nowadays and kill off their good cooties along with their bad, but if you want to antibacterial yourself to death it is your right to do so.

    I guess I need to start hoarding hand soap along with my incandescent light bulbs ;)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Lessee….Democrats are campaigning against soap. I KNEW that they were Europeans at heart, probably French!

  • DopeyDem

    Congress should pass a law that if you ban something and it turns out you are wrong, you should be held civily and criminally responsible. Like global warming and Algore. DDT and what’s her name. Deepwater drilling and Obammy. Corvair’s and Numbnuts. When was the last time anyone but a lefttard banned something?

    • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ Ed Darrell

      Similarly, if you say stupid things about good federal regulation — say, you tell fat untruths about DDT, claiming it as safe when it’s not, claiming malaria deaths are rising, when they are falling — you should be held civilly and criminally liable. Like those who claim the Earth isn’t warming, though it is.

      When was the last time a rightard banned anything? George W. Bush banned the use of USAID money to buy DDT to fight malaria, despite the outcries of environmentalists who said such uses are fine . . .

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4RKUEHF3NG2Z32RT4B5A3Y7HUE Kenny

        Wait, I’m sorry, what?

        In the same post, you claim that DDT is so unsafe that people who CLAIM that it is unsafe should be prosecuted….but that George W. Bush is bad for banning Malaria, which never happened.

        I mean, of course, nothing you said is correct.

        George Bush INCLUDED DDT in his Usaid funding:

        http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results/20807/Uganda_Will_Use_DDT_to_Fight_Malaria.html

        Malaria deaths fell afterwards, not before.

        It amazes me how leftists call rightwingers and libertarians monsters who hate black people…but the world would literally have tens of millions of more black people if we ignored moron leftists who pretend to know DDT science.

        • 2hotel9

          What we have here is another racist who is quite happy to kill dark skinned people as long as his little fantasy world of environazi crap is not challenged.

  • 2hotel9

    The government should not be involved in this at all. That said, over use of anti-bacterial soaps is not good for you. It suppresses your immune system and effects your digestive tract, which works using, OMG, bacteria. Same effect as over use of anti-biotics, disrupts the flora in your intestines. Bad juju, man.

  • noblindersonme

    Having solved all the world’s other problems! the EPA takes on the scourge of hand soap! Arn’t you in the smarmy context of ridiculing the EPA behaving just as silly with your stupid posts! Of course you are! Ain’t you got anything better to write (cherry pick) about ! These are fringe stories – have YOU SOLVED ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS here on this blog. Radiation is still leaking from from nuclear plant In Japan in one of the worst nuclear accidents ever – Guess you guys solved that – out of sight out of mind, right! Oh yeah Ann Coulter , matron of the right says “But the radiation IS GOOD for you!”. Problem solved !
    If YOu ain’t involved in the supposed ‘most critical and crucial’ problems facing us NOW , SERIOUS budget balancing , war and foreign crisis, energy development (oil spils and nuclear disasters), and keep focused on that . then your silly distractions like this sure doesn’t distinguish this blog as a place where grownups meet!

    yeah yeah the EPA’s stance of this MIGHT qualify as an issue to chew on , But that is not what this is all about is it!!! Port decides what red meat he wants to toss to his snarling crew each day , and which meaty issues to avoid and sweep under the rug.

  • Graybowf

    The easiest answer to this all is ban the EPA. Undo all the “helpful” things they do save the “whatever” to the detriment of humans and their private property! Defund the EPA now!

  • noblindersonme

    furthermore -anyone who can make the ignorant reference to Rachael Carson’s “Silent Spring and the DDT controversy , as a ‘foundation ‘ of his knowledge of history and science , is someone who belongs in that garbage bin of Limbaugh and Coulter type of ‘info-fools’.
    Port -have you got proof that DDT was never proven to be the carcinogen or environmentally dangerous tool you claim it is!!!!! Of course you don’t !!!! Just because you can claim malaria re established itself after the DDT ban , is NOT proof that DDT is good for us!!!! That is JUNK thinking! All you just argued was that DDT was good for killing mosquitos and human beings !!! A good thinker would pursue paths where tools that are chemically based are safe for humans and selectively detrimental. Of course that would be too difficult for the small minded politico to comprehend. I will respect your ‘ opinion’ when I see you spraying DDT in your backyard as your children play there , and when I see Coulter sunbathing in Japan tommorrow! ICK!

    • 2hotel9

      Yes, there is abundant proof that DDT had nothing to do with bird egg shell softening, and that it is not a problem when correctly used, just like anything else in life, you whiny lying c*nt.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think the people who banned ddt ought to prove it was dangerous. They haven’t.

    • Harddrive68

      It appears you have no knowledge of radiology. Check this out….perhaps it will enlighten you if you can take the “blinders” off long enough.

      • Harddrive68
        • 2hotel9

          Oh. My. Gawd. You will be eviscerated by the left! How dare you flaunt your facts and whatnot in their faces like such a scantily clad harlot?!?!?!

          Cool. I typed the whole thing without laughing.

      • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

        What on earth does radiology have to do with DDT? Or hand soap?

        • 2hotel9

          Ask blinder, they brought up radiation from the Japanese plant accident.

        • 2hotel9

          Maybe they think anti-bacterial soap protects people from radiation? Would be about the level of intelligence they have demonstrated before.

          • 2hotel9

            noblindersonme, not Harddrive68. blinder has screeched some hysterically fun crap from time to time. Unintentionally, I’m certain.

    • Noway

      you are a numbskull! ddt coyuld have saved millions of lives in africa, but since it was “banned” by lefty tree huggers, the countries of africa could NOT use it! so. lets see…….save an owl, kill people….which is better. oh yeah, save a frikin owl, but kill untold amounts of people! typical lefty, kill people (including abortions), but save animals???? like i started with YOU ARE A NUMBSKULL!

  • Jackmackeral

    Triclosan helps prevent many infections. MRSA is a nasty example, it can be picked up on the skin. Look for this type of infection to increase.

    • 2hotel9

      All manner of infections which used to be minor and uncommon are increasing. Since the clean freaks have moved to the forefront, beginning in the early 1970s, there has been a slow, steady increase in this.The human body needs a certain degree of exposure to, well, dirt. Things that it has to fight. Otherwise the immune system begins to stop working. And the over use of strong astringent cleaners and anti-bacterial soaps makes the situation worse. The only place these things should be heavily used is hospitals/medical facilities and food processing and handling facilities. Use them on your person and in your home on a daily basis and you are asking for problems.

      All that said, the government should shut the f*ck up and go away. They are the f*cking idiots that started all this in the first damned place.

  • Sandy

    Does anyone understand how these soaps work and what EXACTLY are the differences?
    #1 Use alcohol based hand sanitizers and just plain soap. Because, when you use them, they will CLEAN surfaces.

    #2 – Antimicrobial hand soaps work by leaving a residue behind. You don’t clean anything by using these,

    So…How do you feel about spraying your hands with Raid? Maximum protection OFF? How about washing your dishes? Want to spray them first before eating off it? The EPA has it EXACTLY right!
    Do some damn research people! Quit spouting off and use what little critical thinking you may possess! Flippin’ sheep!

    • 2hotel9

      Poor sandy, too stupid to buy a clue. The EPA is THE reason you have that soap you don’t like. Do so damned research and quit spouting off, honey.

      • Sandy

        Well gee…you are ignorant sweetheart. Do the research.

        • Sandy

          For those who may have more than a Third grade education…

          http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm

          • 2hotel9

            If you are so stupid you have to have morons from the government teach you how to wash your a$$ it is your fault and no one else’s. Well, perhaps your mom’s, but then again you cpould simply be too stupid to learn. Always a possibility.

  • Bookdoc

    I got used to using anti-microbial soap in the restaurant business. I still use it in the kitchen when cooking and going between different foods to prevent cross contamination. Other than that, I think they are a bit overused and wonder if this over sanitized environment has something to do with the rise in the number of “allergic” people. Of course, it could just be a rise in the number of allergists and new medications….

    • 2hotel9

      See! Here is a good, sensible person. Good job.

      • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ Ed Darrell

        Good and sensible, indeed. The issue is whether overuse of triclosan — do we really need to use it for every hand-washing? It doesn’t help auto mechanics get oil off — will push the evolution of bacteria and other microbes to be resistant to it. Bacteria evolve very quickly, and they evolve resistance and immunity very quickly.

        We didn’t listen when Rachel Carson said overuse of DDT would render it ineffective against malaria, and the mosquitoes became resistant by 1965, a decade earlier than anyone had predicted. We didn’t pay careful enough attention to staphs, and now we have Multiple-drug Resistant Staph A.

        The question about banning easy and cheap and great overuse of triclosan is entirely built on the case of protecting humans.

        • 2hotel9

          You camouflage your anti-human lies in a coating of sh*t. F**k you, socialist enemy of the human race. Suck sh*t out of my a$$, c**ksucker.

  • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ Ed Darrell

    If you have truth on your side, you have a good case.

    Alas . . .

    You said:

    “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.”

    1. Carson never said DDT causes cancer.
    2. However, since Carson’s death, research indicates DDT is, indeed, at least a weak carcinogen. DDT is listed as a carcinogen by the American Cancer Society and every other cancer-fighting agency on Earth. Why didn’t you check on that before publishing the wrong stuff?
    3. Carson actually said DDT kills wildlife indiscriminately, and overwhelmingly. That case was strong in 1962, and has only grown stronger over time. It’s still true.
    4. DDT has never been banned for use to fight malaria, anywhere. There has never been a shortage of DDT. Alas for your case, by 1965, mosquitoes in Africa showed signs of resistance and immunity to DDT. Today, every mosquito on Earth carries the alleles that make it resistant, and many populations are completely immune to it.
    5. The decline in use of DDT to fight malaria was in response to the mosquitoes’ developing resistance to it — using ineffective poisons wastes money, and you haven’t given enough to fight malaria over the last decade. Malaria fighters cannot afford to use pesticides that don’t work. The decline in DDT use came before anyone banned the use of DDT on crops.
    6. Malaria deaths are, today, the lowest they have been in human history. At DDT’s peak use, in 1959 and 1960, about four million people died each year from malaria, worldwide. In 1972, the U.S. banned DDT use on crops inside the U.S. only, effectively multiplying the amount of DDT available for export to Africa and Asia; however, use did not pick up, as resistance and immunity to DDT rendered it useless in many applications. However, by 1972 the death toll from malaria had been reduced to about 2 million per year. By 2008, largely without DDT, the death toll to malaria was about 900,000 per year, and is estimated today to be about 800,000 — more than 75% reduction in malaria deaths since the peak of DDT use.
    7. The trend in malaria deaths is down, not up.

    All of these things you could look up to verify (you could start here and follow the links: http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ddt-chronicles-at… ).

    If you get the science, history and law of DDT so exactly wrong in so many ways in such short space, can we grant you credence on any other claim?

    In point of fact, Carson warned in 1962 that unless the abuse and overuse of DDT ended soon, insects would quickly evolve resistance to DDT, and its use to fight malaria would be compromised. As with most prophets from God, the sinners did not heed her warning. WHO had to end its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria from the Earth in 1969 because DDT abuse had made the campaign’s success impossible.

    Scientists warn us today that if we overuse Triclosan, we’ll generate Triclosan-resistant microbes . . . and you think we should repeat the error we made on DDT?

    There is some craziness there — but it’s not EPA who’s crazy.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4RKUEHF3NG2Z32RT4B5A3Y7HUE Kenny

    Ah another factual critique. These are always fun.

    1. Rachel Carson did in fact say DDT killed people. And she went further in claiming that many pesticides caused cancer.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Carson#Silent_Spring
    That one’s down.
    2. Virtually everything is listed as a weak carcinogen. As even most cancer researchers now admit, the tests are so broad as to include everything. If we feed a rat it’s body mass in a substance…it may well acquire cancer. Such tests are dishonest.
    “Weak” carcinogens are of little to no risk to people.
    3. Carson’s case for three was incorrect. There’s no ifs ands or buts. Massive overspraying led to mild thinning of the shells. TO claim to overuse of something is the same as normal use is foolish.
    4. Um, this is beyond dishonest. DDT was banned in the USA in 1972. Considering the SOLE use of DDT was to fight malaria, your claim is bogus on it’s face.
    I know fake environmentalists LOVE to claim DDT was never banned anywhere, but the first searches on ANY search engine prove that wrong. It’s an idiotic claim made by morons.
    Moreover, even the EPA admits, that they have been involved to enact bans, most of which affect Africa and developing nations:
    http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/ddt-brief-history-status.htm
    From 1196-2006, the EPA has tried to kill DDT worldwide. The idea that the “ban” is a myth is a filthy lie concocted by leftwing radicals who don’t care if they kill millions of Africans a year.
    5. Malaria use in Africa had nothing to do with “resistance”, nor has any such claim been made prior to the 1990s. While one claim by a Carson affiliated group existed in the 50s, it had nothing to do with Africa.
    6. So wait. The use of DDT increased and Malaria deaths decreased.
    You realize this point is autmoatically wrong right?

    I mean, they were all wrong, but the last one was the icing on the cake.

    • 2hotel9

      Now, there you go again, using facts and reality. You should be ashamed of yourself, making slackjawed idiots like ed feel bad about they bad selfs!

    • http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/ Ed Darrell

      1. Wait a minute:

      1. Rachel Carson did in fact say DDT killed people. And she went further in claiming that many pesticides caused cancer.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R
      That one’s down.

      Wikipedia says that Linda Lear’s biography says Carson had data that shows insecticides harm humans — it does not say that Carson said DDT causes cancer.

      It should be easy for you to quote from Silent Spring if it is the case that Carson makes that claim there. Can you?

      That one is not down.

      2. Yes, there are a lot of weak carcinogens. DDT was never banned for causing human cancer, so the entire argument is a red herring. But the claim that DDT is NOT carcinogenic is not supported by the historic nor scientific evidence. DDT is listed by the American Cancer Society as a carcinogen. I don’t think they are lying. I’ll take their word over yours. You show now exculpatory research. I think any fair minded person would agree that, while DDT is not a strong carcinogen, neither is it accurate to claim it is NOT carcinogenic. That’s a falsehood.

      3. Any use of DDT leads to thinning . Once again you jump on a red-herring argument. The evidence for eggshell thinning was not clear until the 1970s. Carson died in 1964. She never made any claim about eggshell thinning.

      Yes, massive overuse led to massive thinning. Today, the recovery of the California condor is threatened by eggshell thinning from nearly ancient — surely antique — DDT residues. Not massive overuse — almost trace amounts.

      4. DDT’s chief use in the U.S. was on cotton. Malaria was essentially controlled in the U.S. by 1939 according to most histories — that’s seven years before DDT was available to be used for anything civilian. DDT was used for mop up, but most U.S. use was in agriculture, to fight spots on apples, and to fight cotton pests. Because of the widespread damage to beneficial wildlife, the US Forest Service and US Interior Departments reduced DDT use starting in 1958. Almost every other use was also reduced — and by 1972, the most common use of DDT in the U.S. was on cotton.

      The 1971 order of the EPA left DDT manufacturing alone, by the way. Manufacturers complained about monetary losses, and health care workers said they still had some use for DDT in those rare cases where it still worked. So all of U.S. production was dedicated to export. You could look it up at EPA’s history site.

      And while you’re at it, check in with Malcolm Gladwell’s history of malaria fighting and Fred Soper. (Here: http://www.gladwell.com/2001/2001_07_02_a_ddt.htm ) It shows that abuse of DDT in agriculture — not fighting malaria — killed the World Health Organization’s campaign to eradicate malaria, because it bred mosquitoes that were resistant and immune to DDT, by 1965. That’s seven years before the U.S. ban. WHO’s management board voted to kill the campaign officially in 1969 — three years before the U.S. ban on agricultural use.

      So it’s a simple falsehood to claim that the U.S. ban on U.S. use of DDT on crops, led to a shortage of DDT in Africa at any time, when the reality is that the U.S. ban led to an increase in DDT available in Africa. It’s false to claim that the U.S. ban on DDT on crops led to an increase in malaria-carrying mosquitoes in Africa. Mosquitoes don’t migrate from the cotton fields of Texas to Africa.

      EPA has no authority to ban substances outside the U.S. WHO has no authority to ban any substance, anywhere. DDT has been in continuous use since 1946 in many nations, and is still manufactured today in India, and maybe North Korea and Communist China.

      If you have EPA “admitting” to banning DDT in Africa, I’d love to see that order. How did they do it? Threat of death rays from outer space? It’s U.S. EPA, not World EPA.

      If you’re going to accuse environmentalists of “a filthy lie,” it would be good if you didn’t tell a filthy lie to do it. EPA has no authority outside the U.S.

      5. I’ll take Fred Soper’s word over yours any day (see Gladwell’s article, above). It was a combination of resistance to DDT by mosquitoes, and dodgy, unstable governments in Subsaharan Africa, that led to the end of the WHO campaign to eradicate malaria. Soper didn’t like Carson’s book, but her book didn’t kill his campaign.

      6. Read the statistics and numbers again. DDT reduction has corresponded to a reduction in malaria. I’m not saying there is a cause-effect relationship. But I am saying that the evidence specifically denies any cause-effect relationship going the other way. DDT use peaked in 1959 and 1960, when 4 million people died every year from malaria. That death toll was down to 2 million a year in 1972, when the U.S. banned DDT use on crops. Today, the death rate is about 800,000, more than a 75% reduction from peak DDT use, and more than a 50% reduction since the U.S. ban on crop use for DDT.

      Malaria rates and total deaths are declining, not rising. Failing to use DDT has not led to an increase in malaria deaths.

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