Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a family of human made chemicals used by industry as part of stain- and water-resistant fabrics, cleaning products, paints, fire-fighting foams and in cookware. They are pollutants of increasing concern as they are now commonly found in waterbodies largely due to industrial waste emissions. PFAS are also highly persistent in the environment and accumulate in fish, birds, plants and animals. PFAS are linked to formation of cancer and organ damage. They are associated with negative impacts on the development of children. Currently PFAS is removed from waters using physical processes which do not, for example, clean contaminated sediments and which generate large volumes of waste that need costly disposal. This studentship will aim to remove PFAS from water and sediment using microbes that can breakdown PFAS in situ through a process known as biotransformation which will be more effective, while reducing both cost and wastes generated.
The main AIM is to exploit the use of microorganisms to clear PFAS from PFAS-contaminated waters. The specific OBJECTIVES are to:
(1) Collect water and aquatic annelids samples from Scottish freshwater and estuarine environments;
(2) Identify microbial communities from the water & sediment samples able to biotransform PFAS;
(3) Microcosm study of biotransformation of PFAS.