Last fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that GenX chemicals were more toxic than the “permanent chemicals” they were developed to replace.
Now, a new study led by the University at Buffalo looks at what happens when GenX, a chemical used in food packaging, nonstick coatings and other products, interacts with water.
Published on Journal of Hazardous Substancesthe study revealed how molecules of GenX and water mix to form complex structures called micelles.
This work builds on a growing body of scientific evidence that GenX and its derivatives, found in drinking water in North Carolina and elsewhere, may cause similar or more severe damage than other permanent chemicals. health hazard.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to report GenX micelles,” said lead author Paschalis Alexandridis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor in UB’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. “This is an important step toward better understanding what happens when these chemicals are released into the environment.”
GenX is named after a processing technology developed by DuPont in 2009. It is a member of a large class of synthetic compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS are so resistant to decomposition that they are often referred to as forever chemicals. They have become a major problem due to their persistence in the environment and their adverse effects on human health and wildlife.
“Many notorious PFASs have been banned,” Alexandridis said. “The industry has developed alternatives that are considered safer and more sustainable. However, as the EPA’s findings suggest, this may not be the case.”
GenX is a surfactant molecule that contains water-soluble and water-insoluble segments. This dual nature prompts the self-assembly of several GenX molecules into micelles, which adsorb on surfaces and bind to other compounds such as proteins.
The study, conducted in collaboration with the University of Utah, shows the formation and structure of GenX micelles at atomic-level resolution—in other words, in great detail.
Micelles have been implicated in the environmental and human health effects of PFAS surfactants such as GenX, Alexandridis said.
“PFAS are usually present in water and blood in very low concentrations, but they tend to bind and accumulate at interfaces and surfaces,” he said. “This is desirable when we want to isolate PFAS using adsorbent materials. But it’s not desirable when PFAS is bound to proteins in the blood or to cell membranes. Therefore, it is important to understand and control the association of PFAS.”
In addition to improving the scientific community’s understanding of GenX, the research is important because it establishes a way to computationally predict how other, lesser-known PFASs will behave in similar situations, Alexandridis said. The study used a variety of experimental techniques such as surface tension, fluorescence, viscosity, small angle neutron scattering (SANS) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations.
Alexandridis noted, “We should invest time and resources in screening these chemicals before introducing them into the products and environments that humans and wildlife are exposed to.”
Novel PFAS accounts for 24% of blood measurements in Wilmington, N.C. residents
Samhitha Kancharla et al., GenX in water: interactions and self-assembly, Journal of Hazardous Substances (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.128137
Courtesy of University at Buffalo
Citation: Study examines chemical GenX in water: how is it different from other PFAS? (March 16, 2022) Retrieved on March 16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-03-chemical-genx-pfas.html
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