NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 22, 2009

Say you just invented a surefire way to kill 99.9 percent of the bacteria, viruses and fungi that dwell on surfaces like tabletops and doorknobs.  Would you sell your product to medical centers or would you instead approach the New York Yankees and help them develop the "first antimicrobial Major League Baseball facility?"  If you're the Coatings Specialist Group (CSG), you've done the latter, says Kent Sepkowitz, a physician in New York City who writes about medicine. 

The self-proclaimed "world leader in sustainable, environmentally beneficial surface treatments" just sold the Yankees on using its Sports Antimicrobial System (SAS) -- a combination of SportsAide, a durable surface treatment, and FabricAide, a high-end laundry detergent -- in their new stadium, says Sepkowitz.

So how did the Yankees get to the front of the line?  There are three potential reasons, says Sepkowitz:

  • CSG figured there was more money to be made selling the package to sports teams that follow a cash-and-carry business model and work in places that are fun to visit.
  • CSG does want to help hospitals, but the regulatory climate is just too debilitating.
  • The product just doesn't work that well causing other potential buyers to pass on it.

The answer is all of the above, but it is the last reason that is the most worrisome, says Sepkowitz.  Both the "disease" and the cure (SAS) seem like the latest entries in the proud American tradition of quackery.  The SAS system may decrease the number of colds the Yanks catch, but so, too, would regular hand-washing and staying home while contagious.

We are just full of bacteria; it is in us, on us and around us every minute of every day.  SAS doesn't have a chance even if it were as good as CSG claims.  The Yankees are not critically ill people with weakened immune systems, so adding SAS to the stadium is just a waste of money, says Sepkowitz.

Source: Kent Sepkowitz, "America's Clean Team," Slate, April 16, 2009.

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