THWRC Awarded Proposal 513TAM0030H

Project number:           513TAM0030H

Title:                              Biodegradation of Fluorotelomer-based Surfactants Under  

                                       Different Redox Conditions

Lead PI:                         Kung-Hui Chu

Awarded amount:        $33,000


Project Abstract

Detection of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) in the global environment and biota is of great concern, because these compounds are environmentally persistent, potentially bioaccumulative, and can exert adverse toxic effects in laboratory animals.  Because 8:2 fluorotelomer alcohol (8:2 FTOH) is a known precursor to PFOA, the manufacturers are now moving toward 6:2 FTOH as a key raw material to manufacture FTOH-based products like surfactants and polymers.  The production of FTOH-based products has estimated to be equivalent to 6,000 tons /year, of which approximately 40% is manufactured in North America.  Yet, biodegradation of FTOHs and FTOH-based products is a potential source of other perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs). Thus, a better understanding about the fate of FTOHs, particularly through biological processes, is warranted. This proposal addresses some of the factors affecting the biodegradation of 6:2 FTOH and FTOH-based products in the environment.  

The goal of this proposal is to better understand the biodegradation potential of fluorotelomer-based surfactants (FTOH-based) under different environmental conditions and to enhance the extent of the biodefluorination of fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs), as the first step moving toward the development of biological treatment strategies for polyfluorinated compounds.  We will elucidate factors that control the extent of the biodefluorination of FTOHs and FTOH-based surfactants.  This study of biodefluorination will significantly increase our understanding of the microbiology of these important but poorly-studied dehalogenation processes.