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A New Jersey Soil Bacteria Is First to Break Down Toxic 'Forever Chemical'

September 18, 2019 / Ryan F. Mandelbaum

Scientists have found a bacteria capable of breaking down toxic “forever chemicals” in New Jersey soil. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS, are commonly found in in products like water-repellant fabrics and paints, disposable restaurant bowls, and even dental floss. They’re also toxic pollutants that are incredibly difficult to break down in the environment, ending up in our water and traveling up the food chain. Scientists are naturally looking for ways to break down these so-called forever chemicals. “We were curious about what this organism could do, and were really surprised at how well it’s working,” Peter Jaffé, study author and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University, told Gizmodo. Back in 2005, scientists noticed a strange chemical reaction that broke down ammonium ions in low-oxygen, acidic soil, which they called the Feammox process. Visits to the Assunpink Wildlife Management area allow...