US Congress May Find a New Way to Finance its Bio-Revolution

US Congress hearings regarding PFAS may come at the right moment.

What are PFAS

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s.

How are humans exposed to PFAS?

  • Contaminated soil and water used to grow the food;
  • Food packaging containing PFAS, and
  • Equipment that used PFAS during food processing.

Health Effect of PFAS

Exposure to PFAS will lead to adverse health outcomes in humans. PFAS will accumulate in the body and stay a very long time in the human body. It’s difficult to test PFAS on humans for deontological reasons. However, studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects on laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies. PFAS seem to cause or impact cholesterol levels, infant birth weights, immune system, cancer (for PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS) in humans.

PFOA Stewardship Program

In 2006, EPA invited eight companies in the PFAS industry to join in a global stewardship program with two goals:

  • To commit to achieve, no later than 2010, a 95 percent reduction, measured from a year 2000 baseline, in both facility emissions to all media of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), precursor chemicals that can break down to PFOA, and related higher homologue chemicals, and product content levels of these chemicals.
  • To commit to working toward the elimination of these chemicals from emissions and products by 2015.

Participating companies: Arkema, Asahi, BASF Corporation (successor to Ciba), Clariant, Daikin, 3M/Dyneon, DuPont and Solvay Solexis.

Dupont, Chemours and 3M

Chemours was founded in July 2015 as a spin-off from DuPont. DuPont used PFOA in its Teflon products and then manufactured the chemical before spinning off that part of the business into Chemours. Dupont probably spinned off the activities because they knew”trouble” was coming. Chemours is now challenging DuPont in court as the company denies liability over the chemicals. We have to agree with Chemours on this point.

3M was a leading producer of PFAS since the 1950s. As early as the 1950s, 3M’s own studies showed that PFAS chemicals built up in blood, and by the 1960s, 3M’s own animal studies showed the potential for harm. Yet 3M continued to produce PFAS chemicals without notifying its employees of the risks. Funnily enough, 3M’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Denise Rutherford testified during the September 2019 Congress hearing that there is “no cause and effect” between PFAS chemicals and adverse health impacts.

Both 3M and DuPont have ceased production of PFOA and PFAS in the US, but DuPont continues to manufacture it in China.

Europe & UN

A Nordic report estimates annual health-related costs to 2.8 – 4.6 billion EUR for the Nordic countries and 52 – 84 billion EUR for all EEA countries. A UN committee responsible for toxic chemical policy agreed to ban the compounds this year (the US is not party to the pact).

Financing the Bio-Revolution

The PFAS fiasco has been lasting for 5 decades. Companies like Dupont and 3M have been cheating on US citizens, US military, the US Environmental Protection Agency and many more.

Time has come for US Congress to take its responsibility and put an end to this circus.

To put things into context. In 2012, Five banks agreed to pay $25 billion in penalties and borrower relief over alleged foreclosure processing abuses. The highest antitrust fines imposed by the EU were: Google fined $5 billion in 2018 and $2.7 billion in 2017, Intel fined $1.45 billion in 2009, Qualcomm fined $1.2 billion in 2018, Microsoft fined $794 million in 2004, Servier fined $582 million in 2014 and Telefónica fined $207 million in 2007.

Dupont had a revenue of $ 86 billion (2018), 3M of $33 Billion (2018) and Chemours of $6.2 billion (2017).

If the EU fines Google $7,7 billion for antitrust and if the US fines banks 5 Billion $ in the foreclosure scandal, it would be fair to assume that Dupont and 3M should be fined approx 1/4 for their 2018 turnover for the PFAS scandal: $21,5 billion for Dupont and 8,25 billion for 3M; a total of $ 29,75 billion. The settlement should be done before the end of this year and the full payment within 6 months of the settlement.

Half of the money should be used to (1) repair eventual damages done by the PFAS crisis and the other half should be used to (2) finance the transition from a fossil-economy to a bio-economy.

(1) An estimate should be done to calculate the real costs of this “cleaning operation”, if it’s more, you increase the first half by the necessary amount to pay for the full clean up over the entire US continent.

(2) The other half should remain fixed ($15 billion). The money should be spent wisely and given to young startups (1 to max. 50 employees) active in the bio-economy (bio-chemicals, bio-plastics, bio-cosmetics, bio-food, bio-fashion, etc). Part of the money should be given to universities to finance their Bio-research; but not to the Ivy leagues universities as they don’t need the money but to the less fortunate universities and research centres who need it more.

Al these startups and universities benefitting from these grants should ideally be located in the less fortunate US States, the 50 % US states with the lowest average income per capita.

This would flash forward the US bio-revolution, strengthen the US middle and lower class, encourage entrepreneurial climate and create a favourable dynamic. This would be a great way to give back to the US citizens and make the bio-revolution truly democratic.



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