Police in São Paulo have made a rare yet large-scale seizure of a chemical intended for industrial applications, but which is now being used as a novel cutting agent in the final stages of cocaine and crack production.

On June 10, São Paulo police discovered 366 kilos of a chemical, known as Irganox 1076, inside a truck they had been monitoring, G1 reported. The vehicle was stopped at a highway tollbooth on suspicion of carrying cocaine but the product was later identified as this plastic antioxidant, commonly used in the construction, automotive and aerospace industries. 

The seizure came two days after DENARC busted a cocaine and crack refining facility in Jardim Mirna, in the south of São Paulo, at which over 10 kilograms of cocaine, two kilograms of Irganox 1076 and equipment used to refine drugs were found. The truck was first noticed at this facility.

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Authorities believe the chemical was intended to be used to “cut” cocaine and crack to increase the volume of the drugs and help swell the profits of drug traffickers. State police have made no other notable seizures of Irganox 1076, according to DENARC official, Fernando Santiago. 

“It’s a very new thing, almost unprecedented,” Santiago was quoted as saying by newspaper Folha de São Paulo.

InSight Analysis

Such a large seizure of Irganox 1076 may mark the introduction of a new cutting agent into the São Paulo drug economy, yet it joins the long list of such chemicals used in the country.

In the last nine months, two large-scale seizures of ethyl acetate have been made in the city of Corumbá on the Brazil-Bolivia border. In September 2021 and February 2022, federal police seized tens of thousands of liters of ethyl acetate – the country’s largest ever seizure of the solvent – which is often used in the refining of cocaine. It was likely bound for Bolivia where it could have been used in the production of high-quality cocaine hydrochloride. 

Some 1.5 tons of boric acid, also used in refining cocaine, was found during a truck inspection at the Corumbá border crossing in April.

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Yet the discovery of Irganox 1076 is new for São Paulo. Irganox 1076 is produced by BASF, the world’s largest chemical manufacturer, and is used as an antioxidant in multiple industries to extend the life of plastics. While Irganox 1076 is a brand name, similar antioxidants have been found in Brazilian cocaine products seized police in Brazil’s Federal District since 2019.

According to a study published this year in the Journal of Chromatography A, a peer-reviewed academic journal, “Antioxidant 1076” was found in 84.2 percent of 38 cocaine base samples and 65 cocaine salt samples tested by the authors in Brazil.