If you have been following the whole “Forever-Chemicals-Everywhere” developments you know that many US residents are at risk from toxic PFAS chemicals* in their drinking water. (See US map of PFAS contamination in drinking water here.) Now, however, a solution appears to be on the horizon. Scientists in Canada** have developed a filter that can eliminate the vast majority (99%) of PFAS contamination from drinking water.
“Think Brita filter, but a thousand times better.” -Dr. Madjid Mohseni, lead researcher and engineering professor, University of British Columbia
How does the new filter work?
To rid water of forever chemicals, the research team created an adsorbing material capable of trapping and holding all the PFAS present in the water supply. (Adsorbing means to gather a gas, liquid, or dissolved substance on a surface in a condensed layer. An example is charcoal which adsorbs gases.) The PFAS toxins are later destroyed using special electrochemical and photochemical techniques. The filter captures up to 99% of PFAS particles and can also be regenerated and potentially reused.
Can consumers get this new filter?
Not yet. Experts need to first figure out how to make it scalable and practically usable. Still to be figured out is whether this new filter is best used at the individual consumer level like water filters already in existence are, or used on a macro level at public water filtration centers. If it is the later, scientists will still need to develop a filtration device for consumers with private and community wells. Stay tuned for further developments.
*PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 12,000 compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”. PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater. PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body. PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (including testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.
**The University of British Columbia study is not the only attempt to use filters to eliminate PFAS from water. In 2022 the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences spotlighted CycloPure, Inc’s filters,which can rid up to 65 gallons (700 single-use water bottles) of PFAS with one filter.