August 2016

FDA Orders Antibacterial Chemicals Removed from Soaps

The FDA ruled to remove triclosan, triclocarban, and 17 other harmful chemicals from soaps saying that the potential harm of these chemicals outweighs any benefit. After first proposing this rule in 2013 in response to concerns from consumer and scientific communities, the FDA finally took action after the soap manufacturers failed to show any health benefits associated with the addition of these chemicals to soaps. These chemicals will still be allowed in other consumer products and soaps used in hospital settings, despite concerns raised by scientists that triclosan and triclocarban contribute to antibiotic resistance.


Water Contaminants in the News

In the wake of lead contamination in the Flint, MI water supply, organizations and municipalities around the country have been paying closer attention to the risks associated with lead and industrial chemicals in the water supply. This summer we have seen reports of lead contamination of water in schools around the country including Los Angeles,Seattle, Baltimore, Portland, and the District of Columbia. A scientific article published this August in Environmental Science and Technology, also raised concerns about perfluorinated chemicals contaminating the drinking water of around six million people living near airports and military bases. This report follows other studies also published this summer drawing attention to the impact perfluorinated contaminants have on human health including association with immune system impairment in children and growing evidence that these chemicals are linked to kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol, obesity, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disruption, lower birth weight and size, liver malfunction, and hormone changes. Another study reported that laundry water may be responsible for the presence of phthalates, brominated flame retardants, and organophosphate in wastewater, all of which are not treated in municipal wastewater treatment plants.


Financings

Thrive Market, a Los Angeles-based online market specializing in “Natural & Non-Toxic Products” has raised a $111 million Series B funding round, led by Invus.


NBD Nanotechnologies, a Boston-based firm developing a beetle-inspired coating technology that makes surfaces waterproof or helps them attract water recently raised $2.6 million. Investors in NBD include Techstars, Boston Seed Capital, Supply Chain Ventures, and Phoenix Venture Partners.


Amastan Technologies develops plasma technologies for the production and processing of advanced nanomaterials without using toxic and costly chemicals that are often used in nanomaterials manufacturing has raised $2.1 million in July. Investors in Amastan include LaunchCapital and Dominick Pagano.


Liquid X, a Pittsburgh-based developer of printable aqueous metal inks recently raised $1.24 million, led by Innovation Works.


AREVO, a Santa Clara-based company developing 3D printable composite materials announced a $7M Series A funding round led by Khosla Ventures.


Innovation Trends in Safer Chemistry

We recently took a step back to reflect on the breadth of the startups we have seen since our start in January. So far in 2016 we reviewed, or are in the process of reviewing, 95 companies developing safer product innovations. This number indicates that there is a robust innovation community working to meet the growing demand for safer chemistry.


The companies we reviewed have the potential to significantly reduce or eliminate many harmful chemicals including perfluorinated chemicals, phthalates, PVC, water contaminants, and harmful dyes in textiles; polystyrene, PVC, bisphenol A, and perfluorinated chemicals in food packaging; formaldehyde, halogenated flame retardants, volatile organic compounds and isocyanates in building materials; and formaldehyde, triclosan, quaternary ammonium salts, Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, and VOCs in health and beauty products.


The top five sectors in this group of startup companies developing safer chemistry innovation are textiles (20), consumer goods (14), built environment (13), food systems (12), and manufacturing (11).


We reviewed about as many startup companies redesigning or inventing new manufacturing processes as are developing new materials and chemicals. For certain complex safer chemistry challenges the process redesign approach has a higher chance of success and the approach can often also generate other sustainability benefits including reduced water or energy consumption.


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