Output of chemicals is up, except for synthetics PRODUCTION SEPT. DEC. JAN. FEB. INDEX3 1974b 1975 1976 1976
Chemicals 158.3 156.1 156.5 158.0 and allied products
Basic 142.7 130.3 136.6 c chemicals
Synthetics 230.0 226.1 223.5 c
a 1967 = 100. b Prerecession peak, c Not available at press time. Source: Federal Reserve System
much higher overall than in the first quarter of 1975. But the first quarter a year ago was near the bottom of the recession for most chemical companies.
So it is no surprise that a number of chemical companies have in the past few weeks put out favorable year-to-year sales and earnings forecasts for the first quarter. For example, Akzona told stockholders at its annual meeting that the first quarter was solidly in the black compared to a loss a year ago. Dart Industries noted to security analysts in Louisville that chemicals and plastics operations showed good improvement the first two months of this year over January and February of 1975. Dexter Corp. told security analysts in New York City that first-quarter sales would be a record for any quarter. Ferro indicated to the same group that year-to-year first-quarter gains would be about 5% for sales and 45% for earnings.
Richardson Co. said at its annual meeting that sales were running 15% ahead of last year and that earnings would be about 33 cents to 37 cents per share compared to a loss of 13 cents a year ago. Chemical and plastics operations have made big strides from a year ago at General Tire & Rubber and at Vulcan Materials. Earlier upbeat forecasts for the first quarter have come from Dow Chemical and Hercules. D
Chloroform banned from drug, other uses A chain reaction of moves by government, industry, and public interest groups has been set off by National Cancer Institute findings that chloroform is carcinogenic in mice and rats (C&EN, March 22, page 7). Last week, the Food & Drug Administration moved as expected to prohibit further use of chloroform in drug, cosmetic, and food packaging products.
FDA's proposed ban was slated for publication in the April 9 Federal Register and will become effective in
90 days, on July 8. A principal target is use as a flavoring agent in cough medicines. Chloroform also must be removed from toothache remedies, liniments, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. And residues will no longer be allowed in food-contact packaging adhesives and polycarbonate resins.
The FDA decision was made after weighing the risks and benefits of continued use. FDA commissioner Alexander Schmidt notes that there is no direct evidence that chloroform induces cancer in man and there is generally exposure of humans for only a short time and to only a small fraction of the doses used over a lifetime on rodents by NCI. On the other hand, the animal findings are strong evidence that there may be a risk for humans, he says, and there are no clear benefits for chloroform use (safe alternative ingredients are available).
However, FDA considers the risk to the public "so minimal" that it will not recall or seize products on the shelf, nor issue a warning to the public not to use products already purchasedas urged in a court suit by the consumer activist Health Research Group (HRG). And FDA notes that many producers are already ending chloroform use. For example, Colgate-Palmolive Co. is discontinuing use of chloroform in its Ultra Brite toothpaste.
Dr. Sidney Wolfe of HRG denounces what he considers FDA's slow and inadequate response and calls its failure to end immediately all chloroform use in drugs and cosmetics "completely irresponsible." HRG probably soon will seek summary court judgment to force further FDA action. The group also is preparing a possible petition for lower chloroform occupational exposure limits.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping up efforts to reduce chloroform levels in drinking water, where it is produced mainly during use of chlorine for water purification. Two possibilities under study: chlorinating later in the process, after removal of humic acid compounds and other organics; using chlorine dioxide, ozone, or other alternatives to chlorine.
EPA has not yet prescribed limits for chloroform and other organics in drinking water because of inadequate information, but will try to shape an interim standard this year. The agency also is awaiting recommendations due in December from the National Academy of Sciences. And over the agency's head hangs a suit filed last December by the Environmental Defense Fund, seeking to force adoption of limits for chloroform and other organics in drinking water.
U.S. energy use down again in 1975 U.S. energy consumption was down again last year for the second year in a row. The drop was due largely to reduced energy consumption by industry, according to a preliminary report from the Interior Department's Bureau of Mines.
Other factors contributing to the decline, says BuMines, included higher fuel prices that discourage consumption, energy conservation activities, and a relatively mild winter that reduced demand for heating. Overall, demand for heat, light, and all forms of power in 1975 dropped to 71.1 quadrillion Btu's, off 2.5% from the 72.9 quadrillion Btu's consumed in 1974, and about 5% less than the 1973 record of 74.8 quadrillionthe first two-year decline since 1945-46, BuMines says.
Reduced economic activity brought about by the recession doubtless accounted for much of the 6% decline in industry energy use that BuMines reports. Combined with a 2% drop in consumption by households and the commercial sector, this drop easily offset slight gains in energy use posted by electric utilities and by transportation, up 0.6% and 0.5%, respectively. Electric utilities became the largest energy consumer last year, surpassing industry for the first time since BuMines began keeping records by consumer type in 1947.
Although total demand for energy decreased, use of some sources of energy actually increased. Use of nuclear power, for example, surged 37.5% in 1975, whereas consumption of bituminous coal and lignite gained a more modest 1.7%. On the other hand, consumption of anthracite coal and natural gas declined 7.8% and 7.2%, respectively. Use of petroleum products also declined 1.9%, and consumption of hydroelectric power dropped 4%.
Petroleum (including natural gas liquids), however, continued to be the U.S.'s largest energy source, supplying 46% of the nation's energy needs, up 0.2% from 1974. Net crude oil imports were up 15.1% from 1974 to an estimated 1.46 billion bbl despite a 26.7% drop in 1975to 640 million bblin net petroleum product imports.
Coal and nuclear power continued to supply increasingly more of U.S. energy needs in 1975. Bituminous coal and lignite supplied 18.6% of the energy total for 1975up slightly from 18% in the previous year; nuclear power provided 2.3% of the nation's energy, compared with 1.7% in 1974. D
April 12, 1976 C&EN 7
Chloroform banned from drug, other uses