Can microbes save us from PFAS?
Some researchers are now hoping certain microbes might be able to clean up one of the more persistent types of environmental contaminants, specifically polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The substances have become known as “forever chemicals” because it is difficult to get them to degrade and thus prevent the damage they do. But even if the microbial cleanup methods work, say Rolf Halden and Bruce Rittmann, Fulton Schools professors of environmental engineering, that success might sidetrack us from efforts to reduce the industrial uses that lead to PFAS contamination in the first place. Halden says there should be a focus on finding ways to make use of PFAS safer, so that large-scale remediation operations won’t needed to prevent harm to environments. Rittmann is exploring the use of a combination of biological and chemical remediation techniques that would use microorganisms to neutralize these contaminants.