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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Toxic Breakdown

Air Date: Week of

Researchers develop a non-toxic catalyst that breaks down potentially harmful estrogens in water supplies. Living on Earth’s Allison Smith reports.


SMITH: Hold that tap. Run-off water from animal-rearing facilities and our own sewer water contain estrogen and estrogen-like compounds, such as those found in birth control pills. These compounds have been linked to developmental and reproductive abnormalities within animal populations, including humans.

Scientist have known through research that environmental estrogens play a role in early onset of puberty, increased rates of testicular and breast cancer, and infertility in people. But now there may be good news; a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are testing a catalyst to break those estrogens down, and clean water of additional harmful substances.

Iron-TAML separates two types of estrogens currently found in drinking water. The catalyst interacts with hydrogen peroxide to form an intermediate compound that breaks down toxins via oxidation. Scientists say Iron-TAML is non-toxic and is already used to remove dyes from textile and paper mill wastewater. It can even reverse laundry mishaps and turn that unfortunate pink sock white again. Researchers are currently working with the US Drug Administration to commercialize Iron-TAML to deactivate environmental estrogens in the near future. That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Allison Smith.



Carnegie Mellon University press release on Fe-TAML


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