Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Scientists have discovered a new class of catalysts that break down contaminants when combined with hydrogen peroxide. The catalysts are capable of removing 99 percent of bisphenol A from water.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a synthetic chemical commonly used in plastics manufacturing. Though many manufacturing companies have adopted BPA replacements, the chemical has contaminated waterways throughout the world.
BPA mimics the hormone estrogen and can disrupt the endocrine systems of exposed animals. The chemical can impact growth, metabolism and the reproductive system, as well as the brain and nervous system, of fish, mammals and humans.
"There is no escape from BPA -- for any living creature," Terrence J. Collins, a professor of green chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a news release. "The massive global use of BPA burdens an already over-strained water treatment infrastructure and most BPA water releases simply never reach a water treatment facility."
When researchers tested their new catalysts, called TAML activators, they found water with a neutral pH was rid of 99 percent of its BPA within 30 minutes. The catalysts caused the BPA to clump together into a new type of molecular unit called oligomers. The oligomers slowly precipitate out of the water, but can also be filtered out.
Researchers found water treated with TAML activators failed to cause abnormalities in yeast or disrupt the development of zebrafish embryos.
When tested on high pH water, the catalysts were even more effective.
"Because TAML/hydrogen peroxide treatment eliminates BPA from water so easily at concentrations that are similar to a variety of waste streams including paper plant processing solutions and landfill leachate, assuming the lab studies transfer to the real world, we can now offer a new and simple procedure for reducing BPA exposures worldwide," Collins said.
Researchers detailed the discovery of their new catalysts in the journal Green Chemistry.