By Alan Caruba
Back in 2010, I wrote about the EPA’s war on siloxanes, a silicone derivative that comes from sand. At the time I noted that siloxanes were “inert, non-allergenic, odorless, and colorless” and that they have been safely used for decades in thousands of consumer and industrial products.”
In April of this year, Canadian Environmental Minister, Peter Kent, announced that the government of Canada had concluded that siloxane D5 was not harmful to the environment. D5 is used in a host of consumer and industrial products including automobile parts, and life-saving medical devices.
Why, then, should you be concerned about siloxanes? The answer is that you shouldn’t.
As noted in an article by Kevin Jankowski that appeared on the website of Applied Technologies, Inc. Engineers-Architects, siloxanes “play an important behind-the-scenes role in our daily lives; they have washed our hands, brushed our teeth, cleaned our clothes, driven us to work, helped us lose weight, and even print our newspapers.”
One might think that siloxanes play an extraordinary role in our everyday lives without posing a problem for our health or the environment and you would be right; unless, however, you worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. No amount of scientific studies matters to the EPA when it determines to attack anything that is widely used in many manufacturing processes and, as a result, contributes to the economy.
At the heart of my argument is the way, since its founding in 1970, the EPA, while initially devoted to cleaning the nation’s air and waters, metastasized like a cancer into other areas that have actually put our lives at risk as it banned beneficial chemicals such as the pesticides that eliminate insect and rodent pests that spread diseases.
In their zealous, agenda-driven efforts to regulate everything, the EPA has become the classic rogue government agency.
Siloxanes are an example. In his book, “Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry”, Rich Trzupek, a chemist who has been an environmental consultant for a quarter century, noted a fundamental truth about toxicity. “Toxicity is a matter of dose, as sober scientists have observed since ancient times. A particular compound may kill you if you drink it, but a few parts per billion of the same compound can have no effect at all. One can, for example, find toxic air pollutants in the parts-per-billion level in human breath.”
I have returned to the subject of siloxanes because the manufacturers of silicone have turned to Congress to rein in EPA’s continued attack on siloxane chemicals in wastewater, demanding that the industry’s testing program be vastly expanded to provide more data for assessment. Recall now, Canada has exonerated siloxanes when used in drycleaning products.
The EPA is demanding that the industry conduct incredibly costly studies to determine the extent of two widely used siloxane chemicals, commonly called D4 and D5 that show up in discharged wastewater at forty-two publicly owned treatment works. They have given the industry a deadline of December 27 to comply with the threat of issuing mandatory test orders.
Jeff Stier, a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, director of its Risk Analysis Division, in a September 6 edition of Townhall.com, noted that “Earlier this year the silicones industry voluntarily agreed to provide, at its own expense, the EPA with a wealth of new information about its materials, including environmental monitoring data from wastewater facilities.”
The demand for a vastly increased testing program is an example of why it does not matter how much cooperation is extended to the EPA, when its intention is to unduly regulate a chemical; its demands increase exponentially until they achieve their goal.
Have you used siloxanes today? As Jankowski points out, “Siloxanes are most widely used in the cosmetics industry, adding beneficial qualities such as spreadability, enhanced skin feel, reduction in greasiness, increased absorption, that silky shiny look, and more.”
In addition, silicone materials are used in life-improving medical applications, such as prosthetic limbs and on needles to ease their insertion through the skin, making dermal injections less painful. Silicones are also found in fabrics and sports equipment like snowboards and swimming goggles.
There’s more, much more,. “siloxanes are a popular additive to plastic products since they provide numerous desirable qualities including flexibility, abrasion resistance, and heat resistance.
One of my favorite programs on the Science Channel is “How It’s Made”, taking the viewer through the production of all manner of products and in virtually every one there is not one, but several chemical components before one gets the final product.
If we are we supposed to fear medical devices and sports equipment because the EPA has decided it wants unnecessary regulations on siloxanes, then it would be a bleak world devoid of hundreds of thousands of items we use or consume daily without a hint of harm.
That, however, is the current intention of the EPA and only Congress can exercise the oversight and control to avoid this calamity.
© Alan Caruba, 2012