An End of PFAS? Not Quite Yet

By Sonya Lunder | Sierra Club | September 8, 2022

Read the full article by Sonya Lunder (Sierra Club)
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"I was very excited to read news about an innovative model to destroy certain classes of PFAS chemicals published last month in Science. PFAS are notoriously persistent and hard to identify, but stories about new PFAS destruction tools using heat, pressure, even fungi, have begun to appear weekly. In this case, lead researcher Brittany Trang of Northwestern University elegantly harnessed physical and chemical properties of PFAS to achieve low temperature destruction of PFAS-carboxylates when heated in a common lab solvent, DMSO.

As a person actively campaigning to halt the reckless and unregulated disposal of PFAS waste and halt the incineration of PFAS-foams by the U.S. military, I am a huge supporter of the potential for safer destruction technologies for concentrated PFAS waste. The Northwestern team’s research reminds us that many solutions can ultimately replace today’s inadequate and unjust options (which for PFAS are primarily incineration, landfilling and deep well injection). This innovative thinking – coupled with funding and stronger waste disposal rules – could lead to technologies that could safely destroy some of the nation’s stockpiles of highly toxic and persistent wastes, rather than shipping it to overburdened communities living near historic disposal sites. 

But in a world where we are all too eager to share some “good news” about the PFAS crisis, the story spread like PFAS-contaminated foam on Lake Michigan on a windy day. The New York Times and Washington Post used the headlines, “Eradicating the Forever from ‘Forever Chemicals’” and “Forever Chemicals No More,” and stories generally overstated the careful explanations of the lead researchers themselves, and may have confused the general public."

This content provided by the PFAS Project.