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Originally published May 22 2009

Martek Biosciences, Infant Formula and the Toxic Solvent Hexane - a NaturalNews Investigation

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) In 2003, an explosion occurred downstream from the Martek Biosciences manufacturing facility where hexane is used to extract DHA used in infant formula products. Hexane is a highly explosive chemical, and a Kentucky State Fire Marshal concluded it was the release of hexane from the Martek manufacturing facility that caused the explosion.

As contained in SEC documents on the public record (

COLUMBIA, MD, April 8, 2003 – Martek Biosciences Corporation (Nasdaq: MATK), today announced that it has received a report from the Office of the Kentucky State Fire Marshal that concluded that the explosion that occurred in March, 2003 at a wastewater pretreatment facility in Winchester, KY resulted from the introduction of n-hexane, a class I flammable liquid, into the local sanitary sewer system. The Fire Marshal's report did not rule out other possible contributors to the explosion.

Martek utilizes n-hexane in its production process at the Company's plant in Winchester, KY, and the Fire Marshal has concluded that inadvertent discharges of hexane from Martek's plant had resulted in elevated levels of n-hexane in the sewer system. Martek has taken measures to insure that no further n-hexane is emitted into the sewer system. Production at the facility has not been negatively affected by these events.

In other words, Martek released volumes of hexane that were sufficient to cause an explosion. This brings up the question: What is this company doing with all those explosive chemicals in the first place?

The answer, by the way, is even more incendiary than the chemical itself: They're making oils for infant formula!

Permission to pollute

Martek is also on the record applying for permission to pollute hexane from the Commonwealth of Kentucky Division of Air Quality. As shown on this Google search of a PDF document (, Martek agreed to limit hexane emissions to less than 10 tons per year in order to avoid the classification of a "major source" for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs).

The document also explains how Martek processes DHA using hexane: (bold added)

The Martek Biosciences facility in Winchester produces two single cell oils, each of which is enriched in a specific fatty acid. One is a triglyceride oil enriched in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) derived from a marine microalgae (DHASCO®) and the second is a triglyceride oil enriched in ARA (arachidonic acid) derived from a common soil organism (ARASCO®). The process begins when a biomass is produced through cultivation of a starter seed culture, particular to the oil to be produced, in a series of increasingly larger fermentors. After the final fermentation, in the case of the marine algae, the biomass is spray dried. The ARASCO® biomass must be dried through other means at a toll processing facility. The oil is extracted from the dried biomass using a hexane extraction process. The oil is winterized, refined, bleached, and deodorized to produce the final product.

In order to avoid classification as a major source for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) as defined in 401 KAR 63:060, Section 1, Martek has accepted limits of 9.0 tons per year (tpy) of total source-wide emissions of any individual HAP (on a rolling twelve month basis) and a source-wide limit of 22.5 tpy of total combined HAP emissions on a rolling twelve month basis.

Are these oils even good for infants in the first place?

In a report released this week called Behind the Bean (, the Cornucopia Institute raises serious questions about the possible health effects of Martek's oils found in infant formula products.

As discussed in a January, 2008 press release by the Cornucopia Institute:

"...Laboratory-produced DHASCO and ARASCO (Martek's names for their proprietary oils) are materially different from the fats found in a mother's breast milk. Martek's products are extracted from fermented algae and fungus, with the use of the neurotoxic solvent hexane. They contain only 40 to 50% DHA and ARA, with the balance from sunflower oil and other components, including some not found in human breast milk and never before a part of the human infant diet."

Here are some additional quotes from food and health experts, as published by the Cornucopia Institute:

"While infant formula manufacturers claim that these oils are perfectly safe and necessary for proper development, our report provides a more detailed picture. We investigated how a toxic chemical is used as processing agents in the manufacturing process, the inadequate testing for safety, and most importantly, how some infants are experiencing serious adverse reactions from formula supplemented with these oils."
- Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst, the Cornucopia Institute

"It's true that DHA and ARA are important nutrients for developing infants--that's why they're found in human breast milk. But we have also seen that some infants are experiencing side effects like diarrhea from consuming the manufactured DHA and ARA oils in formula."
- Jimi Francis, Ph.D., a biochemist specializing in DHA in infant nutrition at the Allie M. Lee Laboratory for Omega-3 Research at the University of Nevada at Reno

"This report presents a disturbing look at the novel ingredients in infant formula. The FDA has received scores of adverse reports on effects of these ingredients, but, to date, the public's only access to these is through Cornucopia's Freedom of Information Act request. This report will help alert the health care community and federal agencies."
- Marsha Walker, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy.

"When I worked in the hospital's neonatal ward, the nurses all called it 'the diarrhea formula'. We've seen infants, tiny little humans, with diarrhea that just wouldn't stop after being given this formula."
- Sam Heather Doak, LPN, IBCLC, Marietta, Ohio


You can read more about this issue in the Cornucopia Institute's special report, Replacing Mother: Infant Formula Report at

The truth about infant formula - a Health Ranger opion

The sad, disturbing truth about all this is that the infant formula industry has, for decades, engaged in highly deceptive marketing practices that sought to replace healthful human breast milk with harmful, factory-made infant formula products in order to generate profits.

These corporations can't make money off mothers' breast milk, but they sure can earn big bucks off a canister of processed, chemically-contaminated cow's milk proteins, high-fructose corn syrup and various chemical additives. Some of the most outrageous crimes ever committed against the people of developing nations, in fact, have been committed by the infant formula corporations who actively sought to teach uneducated women that "breast milk is bad" while insisting that "modern women feed their babies formula."

Martek's role in all this is murky: On one hand, the company is providing an oil that's theoretically good for children's health, but on the other hand, this oil is from an algal source and it's extracted using an explosive toxic chemical that undoubtedly causes harm to our environment. (Hence its designation as a Hazardous Air Pollutant by the EPA.)

Even if there's no detectable contamination of the finished DHA product with hexane, I still would not want to feed my baby an ingredient whose refining results in the release of toxic chemicals into the environment. Would you?

I don't trust any of the conventional infant formula companies. Even the so-called "natural" soy protein infant formulas may be contaminated with hexane residues -- see our previous report on hexane in soy protein here:

If you're looking for truly natural, organic and environmentally-conscious infant formula products, look for the USDA Organic seal on the products (if you're in the U.S.) and really check out the companies behind these products. I know that Genesis Organics ( makes a great goat's milk formula. The Cornucopia Institute's "Replacing Mother" report also contains a wealth of additional information on this topic:

The bottom line? Do your homework before feeding formula to your baby. There's a lot of deception in the infant formula business (as 10,000+ families in China recently discovered with melamine), and it seems that the bigger the company, the lower the integrity of their products (although there are exceptions to this rule of thumb).

Whatever you do, don't automatically trust natural-looking labels and health claims. Some rather nasty infant formula products are, in fact, framed in precisely the language of "natural" and "organic," even when their ingredients are from questionable sources.

And above all, remember this: The best formula in the world is mom's breast milk! Absolutely nothing beats it. In fact, nothing even comes close. The most organic, high-integrity, nutrient-dense "formula" product in the world is but a pale shadow compared to the raw, living mother's milk produced by your own miraculous body (if you're a mom, that is).

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