"Green" catalyst takes on hormones in wastewater.

Position:EH Update - Environmental health

Hydrogen peroxide is best known for its bubbly cleansing of minor cuts and scrapes. But combining it with an enzymelike catalyst called Fe-TAML (short for iron tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand) also produces reactions that break down dyes, pesticides, and other chemicals that have become environmental pollutants.

The combination may also neutralize hormones in municipal and agricultural wastewater, according to Nancy Shappell, an animal physiologist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Speaking at an American Chemical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., Shappell discussed the results of a laboratory study in which she combined Fe-TAML with hydrogen peroxide to break down estradiol, a natural form of the female hormone estrogen, and ethinylestradiol, a synthetic version used in contraceptives.

According to Shappell, who works in the Animal Metabolism-Agricultural Chemicals Research Unit of the ARS Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo, North Dakota, the study dovetails with a growing concern that hormones-whether flushed into sewage or excreted by livestock-can disrupt the endocrine systems of fish, other wildlife, and potentially humans. While wastewater treatment plants remove most pollutants, contamination of surface and groundwater...

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