During the Christmas media lull, the EPA announced that it had fined a Colorado company $230,000 for improperly distributing pesticides. The EPA is tasked with ensuring that people are safe from dangerous chemicals and pollution, so a company that ignores the importance of pesticide regulations should be punished, right? Well, in this instance, the ‘pesticide’ is a pair of rubber clogs impregnated with silver to reduce foot odor. Anyone who fears the consequences of a government shutdown should be able to relax knowing that when the EPA is on the job, it spends its time prosecuting rubber shoes.
Silver, Copper and other metals have long been known to retard the growth of bacteria, such as the ones that make shoes smell. Hospital door handles are often made of copper and some socks are woven with a few silver threads to take advantage of its antimicrobial properties. Crocs took advantage of this well-established property by mixing silver into its rubber shoes and promoting them as anti-microbial. That, of course, is a federal crime.
The EPA is authorized to regulate pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, but the Law’s text does not contain the word shoe, rubber, or silver. Indeed, the text of the act clearly regulates an antimicrobial pesticide as some form of chemical because it regularly refers to those who would dilute and apply the pesticide in the prevention of spreading disease, not those who would wear rubber shoes. There is no mention of using metals to retard microbe growth at all.
The EPA claims that Crocs broke the Law because they advertised their shoes as antimicrobial and such claims made their shoes pesticides by law. The Law says no such thing; the EPA invented this standard out of thin air. According to the EPA, Crocs should have submitted their shoes for testing and then label them as pesticides with usage and safety instructions (i.e. wear a maximum of one shoe per foot). Remember, this is because they contained silver, as in the stuff earrings are made of.
The EPA stated that Crocs also failed to prove the efficacy of their shoes as a pesticide. The Antimicrobial Division – yes there is one – at the EPA tests and certifies pesticides to ensure that they kill dangerous pathogens in places like hospitals and food factories, not to what extent a rubber shoe stinks less when impregnated with silver. The EPA, of course, has not defined what standards an effective shoe must meet, so it is merely grandstanding to the press by claiming to enforce the efficacy of Crocs’s shoes. Since investigating false and misleading product claims usually falls to the FDA and the FTC, the EPA has entered a brave new world of shoe stink regulation.
The Law also limits fines to $5,000 per offense, or perhaps $10,000 per pair of shoes. Crocs is a successful company and can easily afford to pay $230,000, but that money could just as easily go to hiring a few new employees or expanding their international marketing effort. The EPA, in contradiction of the Law, extracted as much money as it could with the sole effect harming a shoe company. Tellingly, the EPA is not demanding that Crocs remove the silver from their shoes; there is nothing unsafe about Crocs shoes, just a failure to submit to federal control.
The next time an Old Time Media troll asks how the Federal Government budget can be cut without harming the US, remember that the EPA finds time to harass shoe companies under the theory that their products are unlicensed pesticides. Everyone who worked on that case easily can be let go. Also, when the EPA makes its illegal CO2 regulation power grab, remember that it is a capricious, law flouting, beast that puts its own power interests far above the real safety of the People.