By: Zak Dahlheimer

NORFOLK, Va. — For roughly a year, News 3’s team of investigators has been looking into what are called “forever chemicals” in Hampton Roads, known as PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) chemicals.

These are man-made chemicals that have been around for decades and can be found in drinking water, certain household supplies, and firefighting foam.

They’ve also been reported at high levels at local military bases.

For more than 30 years, Kevin Ferrara has been on the front lines as a volunteer and military firefighter. Ten of those years were at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Roads.

“We, as firefighters, we’re the protectors of our communities,” Ferrara said.

But since then, Ferrara has been speaking out on PFAS chemicals he said he and others were exposed to while serving in the military.

“As we were protecting our communities, we were being silently poisoned, to put it bluntly, by the very products that were designed to either protect us or help us in our job,” Ferrara said.

Ferrara said he was exposed to PFAS chemicals through firefighting foam and turnout gear used to protect themselves from flames.

“I tell people, I say, ‘I will literally die with PFAS in my body,’” Ferrara said. “That’s how much I have in my body.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been around since the 1940s.

Last year, News 3 first told you about the so-called “forever chemicals” that can be found in firefighting gear, drinking water, as well as certain food packaging, non-stick cookware, and cleaning products.

EPA officials said these chemicals could lead to certain health risks like increased cholesterol levels, reproductive effects, and an increased risk of prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.

For Ferrara, he said his repeated exposure has led to some of his own health effects.

“High triglycerides, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes,” he said.

These impacts, Ferrara said, are why he’s raising awareness.

“My fellow firefighters deserve to know the risks associated with PFAS, whether it’s in foam, turnout gear, the thousands of products that they may have at home, or the firehouse,” Ferrara said. “They absolutely have a right to know, as does the general public.”

Meanwhile, in California, there may be a solution to PFAS chemicals.

“I think this is really a breakthrough,” said Haizhou Liu, Associate Professor in the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. “It’s cost effective, energy efficient, and a green technology without addition of additives, and doesn’t lead to formation of toxic byproducts.”

Liu and others at UCR have been studying PFAS chemicals.

This past November, Liu and others published new methods that chemically break up PFAS chemicals in drinking water into smaller, harmless compounds.

“This technology basically takes light… and shining on water,” Liu said. “When we shine the light on water, we’re basically introducing a type of energy to water.”

“If you think about the PFAS as the particles on the floor when you’re cleaning, and you use a strong vacuum, and then you suck them up into the vacuum, our technology not only sucks them up into the vacuum, but more so, creates a system where the particles will be completely destroyed, and you have clean air coming out of it,” Liu added.

Liu told News 3, within this process, the PFAS chemicals are converted into fluoride.

“We add fluoride in our toothpaste to protect our teeth,” he said. “This is a classic example of where we can convert a toxic chemical into a health additive chemical that can be beneficial to health.”

According to Liu, his team tested this technology with a capacity to handle less than one gallon of water in the lab.

Ferrara said this research leaves him hopeful, but he wants to see it tested in a larger sense.

“How effective is this process going to be on a macro scale? On a large scale,” Ferrara said.

Liu said his team is working towards that in the next steps, hoping to scale out their technology to work on larger amounts of water at water treatment plants and military bases.

“In Virginia, we have military bases where there are concentrated plumes of wastewater,” Liu said. “I think that is a good place where we can test this technology to ensure that, at the source, we can implement the technology to eliminate PFAS, and prevent it into releasing into our recent water systems.”

Meanwhile, Ferrara wants to see more research like this to get to a solution towards eradicating PFAS chemicals.

“We need to have an environment where the next generation doesn’t have to worry about these toxic chemicals,” Ferrara said.

According to UCR officials, Liu said his lab team is “marching toward commercialization,” with help from a $50,00 grant from UCR to scale up this technology to handler larger volumes of water.

https://www.wtkr.com/investigations/breakthrough-solution-could-destroy-forever-chemicals-in-hampton-roads?fbclid=IwAR21mTWWJ9zv7AZpAvQKkB36m-H2Tld1J3UvZsvJn3JuQOdO4PUyDfcZTi0

‘Breakthrough’ solution could destroy ‘forever chemicals’ in Hampton Roads

By: Zak Dahlheimer

NORFOLK, Va. — For roughly a year, News 3’s team of investigators has been looking into what are called “forever chemicals” in Hampton Roads, known as PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) chemicals.

These are man-made chemicals that have been around for decades and can be found in drinking water, certain household supplies, and firefighting foam.

They’ve also been reported at high levels at local military bases.

For more than 30 years, Kevin Ferrara has been on the front lines as a volunteer and military firefighter. Ten of those years were at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Roads.

“We, as firefighters, we’re the protectors of our communities,” Ferrara said.

But since then, Ferrara has been speaking out on PFAS chemicals he said he and others were exposed to while serving in the military.

“As we were protecting our communities, we were being silently poisoned, to put it bluntly, by the very products that were designed to either protect us or help us in our job,” Ferrara said.

Ferrara said he was exposed to PFAS chemicals through firefighting foam and turnout gear used to protect themselves from flames.

“I tell people, I say, ‘I will literally die with PFAS in my body,’” Ferrara said. “That’s how much I have in my body.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been around since the 1940s.

Last year, News 3 first told you about the so-called “forever chemicals” that can be found in firefighting gear, drinking water, as well as certain food packaging, non-stick cookware, and cleaning products.

EPA officials said these chemicals could lead to certain health risks like increased cholesterol levels, reproductive effects, and an increased risk of prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.

For Ferrara, he said his repeated exposure has led to some of his own health effects.

“High triglycerides, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes,” he said.

These impacts, Ferrara said, are why he’s raising awareness.

“My fellow firefighters deserve to know the risks associated with PFAS, whether it’s in foam, turnout gear, the thousands of products that they may have at home, or the firehouse,” Ferrara said. “They absolutely have a right to know, as does the general public.”

Meanwhile, in California, there may be a solution to PFAS chemicals.

“I think this is really a breakthrough,” said Haizhou Liu, Associate Professor in the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. “It’s cost effective, energy efficient, and a green technology without addition of additives, and doesn’t lead to formation of toxic byproducts.”

Liu and others at UCR have been studying PFAS chemicals.

This past November, Liu and others published new methods that chemically break up PFAS chemicals in drinking water into smaller, harmless compounds.

“This technology basically takes light… and shining on water,” Liu said. “When we shine the light on water, we’re basically introducing a type of energy to water.”

“If you think about the PFAS as the particles on the floor when you’re cleaning, and you use a strong vacuum, and then you suck them up into the vacuum, our technology not only sucks them up into the vacuum, but more so, creates a system where the particles will be completely destroyed, and you have clean air coming out of it,” Liu added.

Liu told News 3, within this process, the PFAS chemicals are converted into fluoride.

“We add fluoride in our toothpaste to protect our teeth,” he said. “This is a classic example of where we can convert a toxic chemical into a health additive chemical that can be beneficial to health.”

According to Liu, his team tested this technology with a capacity to handle less than one gallon of water in the lab.

Ferrara said this research leaves him hopeful, but he wants to see it tested in a larger sense.

“How effective is this process going to be on a macro scale? On a large scale,” Ferrara said.

Liu said his team is working towards that in the next steps, hoping to scale out their technology to work on larger amounts of water at water treatment plants and military bases.

“In Virginia, we have military bases where there are concentrated plumes of wastewater,” Liu said. “I think that is a good place where we can test this technology to ensure that, at the source, we can implement the technology to eliminate PFAS, and prevent it into releasing into our recent water systems.”

Meanwhile, Ferrara wants to see more research like this to get to a solution towards eradicating PFAS chemicals.

“We need to have an environment where the next generation doesn’t have to worry about these toxic chemicals,” Ferrara said.

According to UCR officials, Liu said his lab team is “marching toward commercialization,” with help from a $50,00 grant from UCR to scale up this technology to handler larger volumes of water.

https://www.wtkr.com/investigations/breakthrough-solution-could-destroy-forever-chemicals-in-hampton-roads?fbclid=IwAR21mTWWJ9zv7AZpAvQKkB36m-H2Tld1J3UvZsvJn3JuQOdO4PUyDfcZTi0