Harmful "forever chemicals" can now be detected in drinking water by a new sensor.

MIT chemists developed a sensor that detects trace amounts of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), present in food packaging, nonstick cookware, and other consumer products.

These substances, known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally, have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and immunological and endocrine system disruption.

The novel sensor technique allowed researchers to identify PFAS levels as low as 200 parts per trillion in water samples. 

The device they created might analyze drinking water and be beneficial in PFAS-heavy industries like semiconductors and firefighting equipment.

“These sensing technologies are needed.

The senior author of the study, which publishes this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Timothy Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at MIT,...

 ...says we need to discover and eliminate these chemicals since we're trapped with them.

The paper's other authors are former MIT postdoc and main author Sohyun Park and graduate student Collette Gordon.

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