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Solvay is actively impeding independent research into toxic chemicals it manufactures, which are known as a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) that have been linked to environmental contamination and incidents of cancere, according to a new report.
The advocacy group Consumer Reports indicates the chemical manufacturer is preventing an independent laboratory from distributing critical research data which may help identify evidence of PFAS contamination in water and soil.
Researchers sometimes depend heavily on using the “analytical standard” of chemicals to test them, because they are pure versions of that compound. However, according to a letter (PDF) issued by Wellington Laboratories, Solvay has invoked its patent rights to stop the distribution of chemicals used for testing products, threatening the Canadian laboratory with legal action.
Wellington Laboratories announced last month that it was discontinuing this key research resource, after negotiations over the alleged infringement of Solvay’s patent rights broke down.
“We were hoping to negotiate an arrangement with the patent holder that would facilitate the sale of this standard, so that environmental analyses could continue; however, we were unable to come to an agreement that would allow for uncensored access to the standard,” the letter states. “As such, Wellington must comply with Solvay’s request to cease the production and sale of this certified reference standard. Although we do not agree with this course of action, we have no choice but to discontinue this product indefinitely due to possible legal ramifications.”
The letter urges researchers to contact Solvay directly for requests for the analytical standard, identified as P5MeODIOXOAc, CAS 1190931-41-9.
According to Consumer Reports, the analytical standard is a crucial part of testing and analyzing whether a PFAS chemical is present in the water or the soil, and said this restriction of access to such a standard is unprecedented and has never been seen before.
A number of researchers indicated Solvay’s actions appear to be a focused attempt to prevent PFAS research.
PFAS and Firefighter Foam Environmental Concerns
PFAS were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940’s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. However, since then the chemicals have been linked to a myriad of adverse health effects including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.
The chemical substances are used to manufacture a number of products, including some firefighting foams, food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and other products. However, it is perhaps most known for its use in aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) used by military and civilian firefighters.
The firefighting foam has been regularly used at military bases nationwide over the past decade during routine fire extinguishing exercises, and there has been renewed focus on the health risks after the chemicals have been found to contaminate many local water supplies around the training sites.
It is projected to take thousands of years for PFAS to degrade, and past studies have shown their ability to enter and stay in the environment and human body through the air, dust, food, soil, and water. Previous U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have shown PFAS chemicals primarily settle into the blood, kidney and liver, and could likely be detected in the blood of 98% of the U.S. population.
Chemical manufacturers face a growing number of firefighting foam lawsuits brought by individuals nationwide, including former fire fighters diagnosed with cancer and individuals who lived near military bases or training facilities where chemicals from the toxic foam contaminated drinking water supplies.