Having nearly put themselves out of business because of huge improvements in the environment over the last few decades, environmental and consumer safety groups are looking for work.
Unfortunately, their work now seems to consist of shaking down companies by getting them to ban long-used, harmless chemicals. And it sure works.
Rather than fight the bad science and misinformation, companies have thrown in the towel. When the chemical du jour (typically something that has been in use for decades) arouses the attention of one of these groups, they jump all over it. And now companies almost certainly for marketing reasons roll over and play dead by removing whatever is being targeted. Then the group that started all the trouble issues a statement saying how wonderful company X is, and they have taken important steps to make cosmetics, consumer products, you name it, safer.
This time, Company X is Procter & Gamble.
ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom says, I don t blame them one bit. When you are selling cosmetics and celebrity scientists like Jessica Alba, Alicia Silverstone and Fran Drescher jump up and down, demanding safer products, you d better believe that women will listen. This is all due to the robust chemical scares industry, and it seems clear that companies have decided that if you can t fight em, join em.
But, we at ACSH will do what we always do concentrate on the actual science behind these scares (which, upon even a cursory examination are not remotely scary) rather than give in to mass hysteria generated by groups whose own self-interests depend on making sure the American public continues to be afraid of chemicals.
Not that it really matters, but the chemicals this time and there will be others are phthalates and triclosan, used in cosmetics and hand soaps, respectively. The claims are always the same these chemicals somehow disrupt the endocrine system, whatever that means. And a number of very shaky studies are the fuel that drive this perpetual engine.
Incredibly, and this is rare, there is at least some rationale for some of P&G s decision, says Dr. Bloom. Triclosan has been under FDA review for 40 (!) years, and while the chances of it being harmful are slim to none, it really doesn t do anything more than a good hand washing will do. He adds, I find it quite unlikely that we will see an uptick in bacterial infections if triclosan is removed from hand soap. It s utility is questionable at best.
Nonetheless, the anti-chemical band marches on. Dr Bloom notes, Once these chemicals are gone, there will be others to replace them in the crosshairs of scare groups, and the game will continue. You can bet your 401K plan on this.