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Imagine sipping water from your tap without worrying about harmful “forever chemicals.” Thanks to Canadian researchers, this could soon be a reality. A team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) has developed a groundbreaking method to filter and potentially destroy toxic PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from water sources.

PFAS, dubbed “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment, have been linked to infertility, thyroid issues, and several types of cancer. Although their use has been banned in several countries, including some US states, they still find their way into water supplies worldwide. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently proposed new drinking-water standards to reduce PFAS levels.

UBC’s new technology likened to a “Brita filter, but a thousand times better,” promises to make a massive impact in addressing PFAS contamination. Madjid Mohseni, the research leader and a chemical and biological engineering professor, envisions this technology becoming part of the collective toolbox to tackle water Pollution.

Existing PFAS filtering methods like activated carbon have limitations, as they don’t effectively trap shorter-chain PFAS variants. Moreover, they produce waste containing high concentrations of PFAS, which often end up in landfills or incinerated, causing further Pollution.

Mohseni’s team developed a reusable PFAS filter using tiny porous plastic beads that can remove both long- and short-chain PFAS at rates matching or exceeding industry standards. Furthermore, the team engineered techniques to break the captured PFAS down into harmless compounds. These beads could be used to filter water in homes, industrial sites, and at municipal levels.

Although the technology shows promise, it still requires real-world testing at scale. UBC’s research team has launched pilot trials in British Columbia, but none of the sites are currently drinking water sources.

Ultimately, eliminating PFAS from the environment requires a multi-pronged approach, including regulations and holding polluters accountable. As Cora Young, an associate chemistry professor at York University, says, “The gold standard solution is to no longer have this stuff made.”

Let’s join the movement for a cleaner environment by supporting innovative technologies like UBC’s PFAS filter and advocating for stricter regulations on harmful chemicals. Together, we can secure a healthier future for ourselves and our planet.

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