Maybe PFAS aren’t as sturdy as previously thought

Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have quickly become ubiquitous in the environment. Used for decades in everything from firefighting foams to nonstick skillets, these potentially toxic compounds are now being found in soils, groundwater and even rain and snow.

And they’re expected to stay in the environment for years—perhaps centuries—as the compounds’ sturdy fluoride-carbon bonds make it nearly impossible for them to degrade naturally. But now, scientists have developed a way to permanently break down two classes of these “forever chemicals” using relatively low temperatures and a few common reagents (Science 2022, DOI: 10.1126/science.abm8868). Brittany Trang, who co-led the study, presented the work on Wednesday at the ACS Fall 2022 meeting in the Division of Environmental Chemistry. William Dichtel, a chemist at Northwestern University, also introduced the work at a presidential event symposium on Tuesday.

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