Not able to wrangle the ill-conceived Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade scheme through the 111th Congress, Rep. Ed Markey has set his sights higher on the nanny state scale: the Massachusetts Congressman’s latest crusade to handicap consumers and free enterprise is an effort to ban widely-used and extremely effective antimicrobial ingredients, compounds that are commonplace in soaps, cosmetics, kitchenware, toys and clothes. These compounds, triclosan and triclocarban, have been safely used globally for over 40 years; triclosan, originally introduced as a surgical scrub, also prevents disease and infection and is used to prevent gingivitis in dental products, as an antimicrobial agent in cutting boards and knives and in a host of cleaning products.
Concerns cited by Markey and other regulatory advocates regarding triclosan and triclocarban are at best over-stated, if not entirely baseless. Markey has pointed to “environmental” concerns, citing the toxicity of triclosan to fish should warrant government intervention. The Congressman fails to mention that triclosan exists (and is toxic) naturally in aquatic algae but is integral in photosynthetic activity – its presence, then, in consumer products is no less malevolent than its occurrence in nature.
Markey is also particularly fond of fear-mongering, claiming the use of triclosan and triclocarban will spur growth of anti-biotic resistant bacterial strains. However, the genesis of the idea that antimicrobial (and not anti-bacterial) agents could spur super-bacterial growth can be traced back to research that has been entirely debunked in peer-review.
Particularly upsetting to Markey is that companies did not stop using triclosan or triclocarban at his behest, despite his inability to provide adequate evidence that they present a danger to the marketplace. On Wednesday, Markey wrote to the FDA and EPA (both notorious for their regulatory imprudence) to encourage regulatory action against triclosan and triclocarban, troubled that they had not taken seriously his previous requests for the agencies to offer a solution in search of his problem. No doubt the Nanny Stater Provocateur is disparaged at the close of the 111th Congress, having seen his progressive regulatory agenda go down in flames. However, that's no excuse to take his angst out on antimicrobials, and the millions of consumers who benefit from their ubiquity in the marketplace.