When environmentalists don’t have the political power to regulate away consumer choice, they sometimes can get industry to do the job for them. Most recently, Proctor and Gamble (P&G) has decided to phase out the chemical triclosan, which has been used in a wide range of soap products to reduce risks from bacteria. P&G’s announcement follows other dumb triclosan phase outs that Colgate Palmolive (2011) and Johnson and Johnson (2012) have already begun.
Interestingly, Colgate is removing triclosan from some products, such as face washes, but keeps it in toothpaste because of its valuable public health properties! They claim to be eliminating other uses because they are not as proven effective.
It may be true that tricolsan isn’t perfect for every product in every application, but the irrational fears generated by the hype lead industry to go overboard and fail to defend their products. They don’t understand that you can’t appease environmentalists, who take an “all-or-nothing” approach, with heavy emphasis on the nothing. The activists will push for complete elimination, without much consideration of the consequences.
There is no good scientific justification for the complete elimination of this valuable product other than hype about risks and alleged impact on antibacterial resistance advanced by environmental activists. As it phases out the product, P&G admits that the chemical isn’t a safety problem. Rather the company’s website notes: “Triclosan slows or stops the growth of bacteria that can cause harm, such as salmonella or E.coli.” But it then continues:
Although triclosan is known to be safe, there are ongoing discussions about how effective it is for reducing bacteria compared to regular soap. Due to our limited use of the ingredient, we have decided to eliminate triclosan from our products by 2014.
First they say triclosan is effective, and then “there is a discussion” about its effectiveness, so they will eliminate it in the name of “feeling safe.” Where does the stupidity end?
Triclosan is just one of many products that greens have dubbed “chemicals of concern” with the help of their friends at the Environmental Protection Agency and various state-government bureaucracies. Relying on questionable science and promoting chemophobia, these activists are also attacking bisphenol A, phthalates, flame retardants, formaldehyde, various pesticides, and more. In reality, it is unlikely that such trace chemical exposures cause cancer or disrupt our hormonal systems as the anti-chemical groups suggest.
If consumers have anything to fear, it’s the agenda behind these activist campaigns, which basically promotes a regressive economic philosophy. At risk is consumer choice and freedom, health and safety, and our economic well being as our society dispenses with the life-enhancing fruits of technological innovation.