Scientists have developed a new process that breaks down two main classes of harmful “forever chemicals”.
Researchers from Northwestern University in the US say the ‘simple’ new technology could be a ‘powerful solution’ to remove these chemicals linked to dangerous health effects in humans, animals and the animal environment.
Current methods to destroy these chemicals include high temperature and pressure, the scientists said.
In the new technique, described Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers capture the “Achilles’ heel” of these chemicals to create a potentially more practical solution for widespread use.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a group of chemicals used since the 1940s and are commonly found in nonstick cookware, waterproof cosmetics, firefighting foams and products that resist grease and oil.
These chemicals do not break down in the environment and remain a constant problem for future generations.
Studies have shown that these chemicals are not broken down by bacteria, do not burn in fire, and do not mix with water at harmful levels.
Studies also show that when these toxic chemicals are buried, they leach into the surrounding soil.
Although the health effects of these chemicals are not yet fully understood, previous studies have indicated that exposure to PFAS is linked to decreased fertility, developmental effects in children, increased risks of various types of cancer, reduced immunity to fight infections and increased cholesterol levels.