Read the full article by Michigan State University (Science Daily)

“Michigan State University chemists are discovering new information to help remediate ‘forever chemicals’ by showing for the first time how they interact with soil at the molecular level.

The researchers, Narasimhan Loganathan and Angela K. Wilson in the College of Natural Science, published their findings online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

‘Forever chemicals’ — more formally known as PFAS or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — earned the label because they don’t break down naturally. When PFAS pollute soil and water, they can enter the food system through plants, livestock and drinking water.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from 2015 estimated that PFAS is in the blood of 97% of Americans. Other, more recent studies have put that number closer to 99%.

What makes PFAS so ubiquitous is a combination of persistence and utility. More than 9,000 chemicals qualify as PFAS and they’re found in a wide range of applications, including food packaging, nonstick cookware, firefighting foams and many more. While time and nature can degrade certain components of these products — and of the waste generated in producing them — the PFAS lingers, accumulating in the environment.

Removing PFAS from soil and water, then, is important for reducing exposure to these chemicals and the harm they can cause, including thyroid disease and increased risk of some cancers.

‘When you start looking at mitigation strategies, you see a lot about removing PFAS from water, but there’s very little about PFAS in soil,’ said Loganathan, a senior research associate in MSU’s Department of Chemistry.

‘And some of the studies are ‘molecule blind,” said Wilson, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of chemistry and a scientist with the MSU Center for PFAS Research. ‘That is, they’re not paying attention to the chemistry.’

Wilson and Loganathan decided to help change that by performing the first molecular-level simulations of interactions between PFAS with a soil component, kaolinite.”…