2 minutes

Known as ‘forever chemicals’, PFAS are found in everything from polar bears to pizza boxes. Efforts to eradicate this persistent pollutant from the environment have been ongoing ever since their ability to permeate through soil and into water supplies were observed in the 1970s. Success has been mixed – until now.

In our latest Talking Infrastructure podcast, AECOM’s global team of specialists Rachael Casson, Rosa Gwinn, Gavin Scherer and Rick Parkman talk to host James Banks about key issues, risks and challenges posed by PFAS, before delving into the remarkable innovations providing a beacon of hope.

How do we solve a problem like PFAS? Since production began in the 1940s, per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS for short, have been moving through the environment contaminating soil and water supplies. The stable nature of some of these compounds means that they are resistant to heat, water and oil so don’t breakdown easily.

Bio-accumulation is one troubling side-effect. It is estimated that PFAS are present in the blood of 99 percent of Americans. Toxicological effects are uncertain, but some PFAS chemicals have been linked to issues such as cancer and kidney disease. High profile cases have increased public awareness and attracted regulatory attention.

However, PFAS chemicals are here to stay, at least for the time being. Everyday applications range from non-stick frying pans to food packaging and waterproof clothing. PFAS are an essential ingredient in firefighting foam.

In this thoroughly engaging podcast, AECOM’s team of specialists from around the world share their in-depth knowledge of ‘forever chemical’ answering questions such as: How widespread is the problem? What are the risks to human health and how worried should we be? How can we remove them from the soil and water supply?

Progress is being made. Across the globe, research focus is shifting away from energy intensive management methods towards technologies that actually destroy these toxic compounds. This exciting step-change in the way we deal with PFAS is explored in depth by the panel, in particular AECOM’s ground-breaking destructive treatment tool (DE-FLUOROTM ).

The panel includes:

  • Rachael Casson, Director, International PFAS program, AECOM
  • Rosa Gwinn, PFAS Lead, America, AECOM
  • Rick Parkman, PFAS Lead, Europe, Middle East and Africa, AECOM
  • Gavin Scherer, PFAS Response Leader Australia and New Zealand, AECOM.


From PFAS to DE-FLUORO: how we invented a process to break down the ‘forever chemical’

On-site PFAS destruction

In response to concerns about PFAS being released into the environment, we invented an on-site destruction process that can be scaled to fit the challenge.