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Rocket Fuel Chemical Doesn’t Belong in Food Packaging

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Rocket Fuel Chemical Doesn’t Belong in Food Packaging
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved perchlorate for use in plastic packaging and food handling equipment for dry food – like cereal, flour (pictured above), spices, and many other additives – to reduce the buildup of static charges, according to EDF. Zakharova_Natalia /
iStock / Getty Images

Perchlorate has been shown to impair the development of fetuses and young children — and yet the FDA refuses to act. So the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is taking the agency to court.


NRDC and partners took legal action to overturn the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to allow the harmful chemical perchlorate to be used in food packaging. "Perchlorate harms kids, and it's all over our food supply," says Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director for health and food at NRDC. "The FDA has enough evidence of these health dangers to take action right now—and its refusal to ban this toxic chemical was unreasonable."

Exposure to perchlorate — which is used in rocket fuel — has been linked to developmental delays, reduced growth, and impaired learning capabilities in young children. And yet it's frequently used as an additive in food packaging as well as in materials used to store and transport foods like cereal, flour, and spices. The chemical has also been detected in drinking water systems that serve up to 16.6 million Americans.

In 2005, the FDA authorized perchlorate to be used in certain kinds of food packaging. NRDC and other public health groups fought to undo that decision in 2014, but the agency denied our petition in 2017. The latest lawsuit is an effort to require the agency to review that petition again. "The courts are absolutely key in blocking brazen Trump administration attempts like this one to ignore science and put people at risk for the benefit of private corporate interests," Olson says.

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Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

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"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

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