DECIPHERING how a synthetic chemical compound behaves in nature might prove a harder task than the time spent creating it in the lab.
That’s particularly the case for one group of complex organic compounds known as Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFASs, created in the 1940s and including PFOA and PFOS. They have many applications but are particularly known for use in fire-fighting foams. However, since the 2000s, it’s been recognised that in seeking to solve one problem, we created another: a recognised bio-accumulative contaminant that is very persistent in the environment.
The first exhaustive audit of peer-reviewed research on the behaviour of PFAS in soils has highlighted the urgent need for more focused investigation to decode how long-chain, and the short-chain PFASs created to replace them, move through soils and leach into the environment.
In a paper published in Science of the Total Environment, Dr Rai Kookana and co-authors suggest we need a far better understanding of the behaviour of PFASs in soil if we are to develop the effective methods required for decontamination – and it might require a united global research effort.