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Crisis in car industry leads to shortage in vital food-testing product
The crisis in the car industry has led to a global shortage of a chemical solvent used for everything from checking the mould level in a chocolate bar to making sure a tablet of aspirin is safe, the Financial Times writes (11/03/2009 edition).
The solvent, acetonitrile, is a by-product of the process used to make acrylic carpets and plastic parts for the car industry, and as demand for cars has plunged in the global financial crisis, so have supplies of acetonitrile.
That is alarming, the FT quotes observers as saying, because the substance is used to break down products such as food or pharmaceuticals into their component parts to check their safety or efficacy, a process known as chromatography. “This is very serious. If you cannot test products you cannot sell them and in many cases not even make them.”
The car industry is at the heart of the manufacturing industries in Europe, with supplies coming from widely varying industries such as steel, plastics, chemicals and electronics.
Directly employing 2.3 million people, the indirect employments level is much higher, with another 10 million jobs depending on the automotive industry in closely related sectors and a much wider impact on the economy as a whole because of the chain effect from supplying materials, tooling, equipment and parts up to vehicle sales, repair and maintenance, other after sales services, such as financing and insurance, and transport related economic activity.
The auto industry is also a driver of innovation and the largest private investor in R&D in Europe. Many technologies and inventions ultimately find their use in other sectors as well.
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