PFClean: Detection and Degradation of Perfluorinated Compounds in Water Supplies

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a broad class of synthetic compounds that are emerging contaminants in surface water, groundwater, soil, and air. The United States Air Force has used fire retardants containing PFCs since 1970, and more than 125 military installations have shown contamination to local water. PFC contamination has become a health issue as these compounds are detectable in a majority of the United States human population as well as global populations. The accumulation of these compounds has been shown to cause cell-membrane disruption, oxidative stress, and DNA damage, but long term effects on humans are not completely understood. For contaminated water, there are available filtering systems; however, there are additional issues as disposal of the materials used to filter PFCs is problematic. Here, the United States Air Force Academy international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team will apply genetic engineering approaches to develop a bacterial system that can rapidly detect PFCs, and one that can degrade PFCs in contaminated water supplies.