A breakthrough discovery by scientists at UC Riverside has the potential to revolutionize the way water providers across the nation tackle the issue of “forever chemicals” in drinking water. These chemicals, known as PFAS (poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances), have been widely used in various products but are now being phased out due to their harmful effects on human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently imposed strict water quality limits to curb PFAS concentrations in tap water, prompting the need for effective cleanup solutions.

Professor Haizhou Liu and his team at UC Riverside have uncovered a chemical process that utilizes high levels of salt typically found in wastewater from water treatment plants to break down PFAS compounds. This process acts as a catalyst, facilitating the cleavage of the strong fluorine-to-carbon bonds in PFAS molecules. While salt in wastewater usually hinders the cleanup of pollutants, Liu’s discovery turns it into an asset for efficiently destroying PFAS.

The research findings have been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology under the title “Promotive Effects of Chloride and Sulfate on the Near-complete Destruction of Perfluorocarboxylates in Brine via Hydrogen-tuned 185-nm UV Photolysis: Mechanisms and Kinetics.” The study showcases how the combination of high salinity in wastewater and short-wavelength ultraviolet light can effectively eliminate PFAS compounds without the need for additional chemicals or leaving behind toxic residuals.

Liu’s discovery is not only expected to benefit water providers utilizing ion exchange technology but also those using membrane reverse osmosis filtration technologies. Brine wastewater containing concentrated PFAS pollutants can be treated using this newfound method, providing a sustainable solution for various sources of PFAS pollution. From landfill leachate wastewater to brackish groundwater contaminated by PFAS, Liu’s process offers a broad scope of applications for remediation.

The groundbreaking research conducted by Professor Haizhou Liu and his team at UC Riverside offers a promising solution to the pervasive issue of PFAS pollution in drinking water. By leveraging the synergistic effects of salt and short-wavelength ultraviolet light, this innovative method paves the way for effective and sustainable PFAS remediation practices, benefiting both public and private water providers nationwide.

Earth

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