Julie Gunlock
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As sure as the sun rises in the morning, Americans can count on their televisions and newspapers to brim with daily reports of all the dangerous products lurking in their homes. Women in particular are told commonplace items like shampoo, deodorant, plastic food containers, household disinfectants, children’s toys, baby bottles, and garden hoses threaten them and their families. Even living room furniture is now cast as a household killer.

Silicone is the latest item to come under scrutiny. Discovered in the mid-19th century by a Swedish chemist, nowadays the term silicone is most often associated with breast augmentation, but its uses go far beyond giving women the perfect décolletage. In fact, silicone is used in everything from car engines to cosmetics, prosthetic limbs and medical equipment. In other words, silicone has made life easier for modern man, so naturally the hyper-regulatory Environmental Protection Agency is on alert.

In 2011, the EPA announced it was interested in collecting environmental monitoring data for two materials in silicone—D4 and D5— to assess the chemicals’ potential impact on the environment. The EPA notified the silicone industry that it wanted to establish an environmental monitoring program at silicone manufacturing, processing and formulating facilities and select municipal waste water treatment plants that treat the chemical.

The silicone industry was quick to accommodate EPA’s request, voluntarily agreeing to monitor five municipal wastewater treatment sites. The sites would be selected in a way that allowed an assessment of the worst case scenario in terms of the potential harm that might be caused by the release of the chemicals to the environment.

The EPA wasn’t satisfied with industry’s plan, suggesting instead that the industry monitor a whopping 42 sites. Of course, the EPA never justified why so many sites needed monitoring for this risk assessment process, or what benefit would accrue from duplicative data from sites using the same treatment techniques.

But then high-powered regulatory agencies don’t really need to explain their motives or logic, do they? And they probably don’t care that this additional monitoring will come at a high price—to the tune of $50 million in redundant data collection.
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Julie Gunlock

Julie Gunlock is director of the Culture of Alarmism project at the Independent Women’s Forum (www.iwf.org).