Is the EPA banning the most useful chemical in the world?

Mattie Corrao Contributor
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The Environmental Protection Agency, not content to simply regulate the air you breathe, is currently considering regulating a substance of almost the same ubiquity: silicones. Siloxane, a silicone compound found in nearly everything from cosmetics to car tires, has become the latest target of the nanny statists at the EPA, which has suggested it could be releasing a Chemical Action Plan for the chemical any day.

The authoring of a Chemical Action Plan (CAP) is suggested when the EPA wishes to investigate the safety of a certain chemical. CAPs, however, represent a broad overreach of the agency’s authority; they are an artificial indictment invented by the EPA to circumvent its legislative restrictions to speculate on the safety of substances without sound scientific evidence for their claims.

This is precisely the case with a proposed CAP on siloxanes. The compounds have been safely used for decades in a multitude of industries. Countless domestic and international studies have shown silicones to be safe for consumer use while posing no threat to the environment. Absent these compelling reasons for regulation, the EPA has no basis for authoring a CAP on silicones.

And yet, because of the broad authority the EPA has granted itself, the agency forges ahead, unabashedly uninhibited by the legislative mandates by which it is supposed to abide. A limitation on the use of silicones, however, would have a devastating impact on the economy and consumers who depend on the chemical for much of their everyday activities.

Silicones owe their ubiquity to their broad utility: they are inert and bacteria-resistant, making them the perfect polymer for use in the health care industry. They supply lotions and creams with superior absorption qualities, making them indispensible for both topical medicines and cosmetics. They decrease friction, contribute to the rubber used in tires and provide for lighter automobile components, all of which are important in producing safer, more fuel-efficient cars. They provide unique insulating and coating characteristics, contributing to energy-efficient construction and manufacturing.

Regulating silicones, then, would affect nearly every industry in the world; tens of millions of jobs could be jeopardized while the prices on hundreds of thousands of products will rise, if the goods aren’t forced out of the marketplace entirely given that no effective alternative for silicone exists.

By its own admission, the EPA’s new regulatory approach in issuing CAPs has “superseded” the framework put in place for transparent and accountable chemical management. This is another example in a growing epidemic of authoritative overreach by executive agencies: Over 3,000 new rules and regulations were issued by the federal government last year, while Congress passed and the president signed only 125 new laws. What’s more, Congress is beginning to punt on crucial issues — Obamacare requires over 40 new regulatory clarifications by unaccountable bureaucrats while the financial regulatory bill needs massive executive rulemaking for its implementation.

The EPA, seizing this opportunity to reach far beyond its legislative charter, is poised to author a catastrophic misstep in government intervention. Unemployment remains above 9 percent for its seventeenth consecutive month and businesses are paralyzed by the uncertainty of the looming tax hikes; more government regulation will extinguish any lingering hope of recovery. Regulation of this magnitude could smother the economy in perpetuity. However, if the EPA’s previous guidance is any indication, it seems this type of suffocation is exactly what the agency has in mind.

Mattie Corrao is government affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform.