Due to their great toxicity and extreme resistance to being broken down as waste products, “forever chemicals,” which are utilised in everyday objects like nonstick pans, have long been associated with major health risks.
On Thursday, chemists from China and the United States said that they have finally discovered a ground-breaking technique for degrading these harmful substances, known as PFAS, using typical reagents and relatively moderate temperatures.
Their findings, which could address a long-standing cause of harm to the environment, cattle, and people, were published in the journal Science. In a study that was just released in the journal Science, the researchers demonstrate that in water heated to just 176 to 248 degrees Fahrenheit, common, inexpensive solvents and reagents were able to break some of the strongest known PFAS molecular bonds, which set off a chemical reaction that “gradually nibbled away at the molecule” until it was gone. UCLA distinguished research professor and co-corresponding author Kendall Houk said that this process took place in the presence of other chemicals that were not
There is no upper limit to the amount of water that may be handled simultaneously due to the straightforward technology, the relatively low temperatures, and the absence of dangerous byproducts, according to Houk. In the future, the technology might make it simpler for water treatment facilities to remove PFAS from drinking water. Although PFAS chemicals can be removed from water by filtering, there aren’t many effective ways to get rid of them after that.
PFAS must currently be destroyed using severe processes like ultrasonic irradiation or cremation at extremely high temperatures.
Additionally, incineration is not always reliable; it was discovered that one plant in New York was still leaking some of the substances into the atmosphere through smoke.
The carbon-flouride linkages in PFAS, one of the strongest forms of bonds in organic chemistry, are what give them their indestructibility.
The most electronegative element, fluorine, seeks electrons out while carbon is eager to give them up. Future advancements to the procedure might be guided by the new information.
The current study concentrated on 10 PFAS substances, including GenX, a significant pollutant that, for instance, has contaminated the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, a source of water for 350,000 people. However, considering that the US Environmental Protection Agency has identified more than 12,000 PFAS compounds, it only represents the tip of the iceberg.