October 2016

Seventh Generation acquired by Unilever

Unilever, the large European consumer products company, announced that it will be acquiring Seventh Generation for $700 million. The announcement came after earlier reports that Unilever was in talks with Honest Co., another US-based product company focused on health and sustainability.


New Report Finds That Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Cost the US $340 billion Every Year

There are over 1000 suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals found in common household products ranging from plastics to cosmetics, and food packaging. Endocrine disrupting chemicals have the ability to interact with our hormonal systems, and have been linked to a wide range of diseases including intellectual disability, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity, diabetes, cryptorchidism, infertility, and reduced testosterone.


A research group from NYU School of Medicine used blood samples from thousands of people to assess exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. This data was used to build computer models to determine the disease caused by this exposure and the associated healthcare costs and lost productivity. In a paper published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology they estimate that the cost of the exposure to these chemicals is over $340 billion every year in the US. Using a similar method they found that these chemicals were costing the EU $209 billion dollars annually.


Safer Materials Opportunities in Food Packaging

With our increased demand for healthier food, packaging has also come under scrutiny from health advocates, food companies, and government regulators.


Last month the environmental group Clean Water Action released a report entitled, “What’s in the Package?” which outlines issues associated with chemicals migrating from the packaging and into our food.


At Safer Made we focus on the following opportunities related to food packaging: phthalates, Bis-phenol-A, fluorinated chemicals, and oxygen barrier materials.


Phthalates are found in plastic and on paper packaging. Some phthalates are suspected to be carcinogenic and have reproductive toxicity. Recent investigations found high levels of phthalates in Fast Food leading to calls for more transparency and oversight of the food packaging industry and a petition to the FDA to reevaluate the 30 phthalates approved for use in food contact packaging.


Bis-phenol-A (BPA) is another common chemical found in food packaging that has endocrine disrupting activity, and has been the target of state and national regulations. Chemical manufacturers have responded by developing alternative chemistries but there are still concerns about the safety of these alternatives. The challenges associated with evaluating and selecting safer BPA alternatives will be the topic of a public symposium at UC Berkeley on the 4th of November.


Many are familiar with the potential issues associated with fluorinated chemistry found in materials such as Teflon, but fewer people recognize that the same chemicals are used in food packaging. Researchers have shown that fluorocarbons are used in a wide range of paper packaging, from pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags to disposable plates and bowls made out of recycled paper. Perfluorinated chemistries have come under scrutiny, but their alternatives have so far been other, shorter chain, fluorocarbons, that will likely present similar challenges to human health and the natural world.


The oxygen barrier function of food packaging is essential for keeping foods from getting stale. Currently the two most common oxygen barrier solutions are aluminum foil (that’s why bags of chips are shiny on the inside) or plastic multilayer films, both making it impossible to recycle or compost the packaging. This is creating significant demand for compostable oxygen and water barrier materials making this one of the significant opportunities in food packaging.


Financings

Carbon 3D, a Bay Area based 3D printer and resin company added $81 million in venture funding to its Series C round from strategic investors, including BMW Group, GE, Nikon and JSR Corp., and earlier venture backers including GV and Sequoia Capital, among others.


Renmatix, Philadelphia, Pa.-based biofuels company, has raised $14 million in new funding led by Bill Gates and Total.


Phononic, an eight-year-old, Durham, N.C.-based company who makes solid-state cooling and refrigeration technology, has raised $30 million in new funding from GGV Capital, Lookout Capital, Eastwood Capital Corp., Venrock, Oak Investment Partners, Tsing Capital, Huaneng Invesco WLRoss, the Wellcome Trust and Rex Healthcare Ventures.


Fusion Coolant Systems, a three-year-old, Michigan based company that makes advanced carbon dioxide cooling and lubrication systems, has raised $1.25 million led by the University of Michigan’s Investment Office, with participation from Amherst Fund.


Vestaron Corporation, a 15-year-old, Kalamazoo, Mi.based biological insecticide company, has raised $18 million in Series D funding from Pangaea Ventures, Anterra Capital, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, and Open Prairie Ventures.


NVBots, a three-year-old, Boston-based company whose 3D printing technology that can print multiple metals in the same build, has raised an undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by Woodman Asset Management.


Final Notes

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