Australian scientists have developed a new process that can easily break down chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHCs) on site.
CHCs are used in a range of applications such as pesticides and dry cleaning solvents. However, they have a number of negative health effects, having been shown to be highly carcinogenic and hepatotoxic.
The process, developed by Environmental Biotechnology Cooperative Research Centre (EBCRC) researchers at Murdoch University and the University of New South Wales, uses an activated granulated carbon and a common solvent to breakdown the CHCs.
The regenerative process turns the halogenated hydrocarbons to a gas and a liquid, which can then be safely destroyed. The activated carbon is then recycled for re-use or disposed of as a low impact waste.
‘Cleanup of halogenated hydrocarbons from industrial and commercial processes is an ongoing and expensive undertaking. One of the great features of our technology is that the process can be transported to the contaminated site. This is a critical feature when transport or incineration of waste material is undesirable,’ said Dr David Garman, executive director of the EBCRC.
Due to the highly-stable nature of the carbon-chlorine bond, CHCs are very resistant to normal biological degradation. Consequently, these compounds are environmentally persistent and because of their lipid solubility, multiply through the food chain.