Forever Chemicals – Scientists Develeped A New Technique To Destroy Them Safely
Scientists have created a novel technique that breaks down two critical types of dangerous "forever chemicals," leaving only benign end products.
"Forever chemicals" found in everyday objects such as nonstick cookware have long been connected to significant health problems because of their toxicity and strong resistance to breakdown as waste products.
They run through our kitchen faucets, are buried in our soil, and are embedded in the food we consume daily.
Everywhere you turn, we're being suffocated by so-called everlasting chemicals, or PFAS (per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances).
These compounds were created in the 1940s to make life simpler by producing nonstick cookware, waterproof clothes, and stain-resistant furniture.
However, the same challenging chemistry that enabled these accomplishments also made the spontaneous decomposition of these substances incredibly impossible.
Worse, research conducted in the decades after the introduction of PFAS into our everyday lives has shown that even low-level exposure to the chemicals over a long time may result in significant health impacts such as thyroid illness, decreased immunological response, and numerous malignancies.
Although PFAS chemicals may be removed from water by filtering, there are few viable options for disposing of them after they have been removed.
Current approaches for destroying PFAS entail harsh treatments such as cremation at very high temperatures or ultrasonic wave irradiation.
Other methods for removing these chemicals, such as incineration, may be harsh and cost a lot of energy.
A team of researchers discovered a novel approach to disposing of these compounds under relatively benign settings.
One of the fantastic features of this finding is that it leaves no harmful products in its wake.
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, studied the chemical breakdown of polyfungal organic compounds (PFCAs) after exposure to solvents called DMSO and lye.
They found that a secondary solvent, sodium hydroxide or lye, aided in the completion of the process by decomposing secondary chemicals into non-harmful organic molecules.
It's unclear if additional PFCAs will have comparable degradation routes, but researchers are attempting to figure out what those distinctions could be.
For the time being, this strategy to destroy "forever chemicals" is not yet ready to be used globally.
Still, the researchers said that when the time comes, it will most likely be part of a joint approach to degrading PFAS that begins with collecting them in a concentrated number before applying their solvents.
Whatever role this technology eventually plays in PFAS elimination, Dichtel says he's delighted to contribute to fixing such a critical issue.