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Weekly Roundup 16/06/2017

PVC piping

16 June 2017

In the news this week:

A collaboration between the University of Cardiff and Johnson Matthey that has developed a gold catalyst to replace mercury in the production of vinyl chloride (VCM), the main ingredient of PVC, has been honoured at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s annual awards. Since the 1950s, the production of VCM has used mercury, which can be harmful both to human health and the environment. The Cardiff team identified that gold as an ideal alternative and has worked closely with Johnson Matthey to trial the process in a pilot plant and reactors in China. A full-scale factory is now in place. It is the first time for more than 50 years that a complete overhaul in catalyst formulation has been introduced to produce a commodity chemical, and has helped to significantly reduce the production of mercury. Find more about the process here.

Statistical anomalies found in dozens of medical publications have raised concerns over the safety of patient treatments. The analysis, carried out by a consultant anaesthetist at Torbay Hospital, used statistical tools to identify anomalies hidden in the data that would be unlikely to appear in credible data sets. By comparing the baseline data, such as the height, sex, weight and blood pressure of trial participants to known distributions of these variables in a random sample of the populations, Dr John Carlisle was able to discover discrepancies in report findings. Dr Carlisle reviewed data from 5,087 clinical trials published during the past 15 years in two prestigious medical journals, Jama and the New England Journal of Medicine, and six anaesthesia journals. Dr Andrew Klein, the editor-in-chief of Anaesthesia, said, ‘It’s very scary that we may be treating patients based on false evidence. It may be the case that certain treatments may need to be withdrawn from use.’ Read more here.

Research by scientists from the multi-disciplinary Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath suggests that biodegradable polycarbonate could be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, rather than petrochemicals. The process uses low pressures and room temperature, making it cheaper and safer. The polycarbonate that is produced can be biodegraded back into carbon dioxide and sugar using enzymes from soil bacteria and is bio-compatible, meaning it could be used for medical implants.
The current manufacture processes for polycarbonate use BPA (which is banned from use in baby bottles) and toxic phosgene. You can find more information here.

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