Shappell's collaborators were Terry Collins and Colin Horwitz with Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Fe-TAML was developed; and Patrick Hunt and Kyoung Ro with the ARS Coastal Plains Soil, Water and Plant Research Center in Florence, South Carolina.
In the next step, Shapell will team with the Florence lab to test Fe-TAML on hormones in effluent from hog farm lagoons.
The orange Fe-TAML catalyst is first dissolved in water and then added to the solution containing the target chemical.
Shappell cautions that although the Fe-TAML catalyst process "is very effective at destroying synthetic estradiol and also several other estrogens, whether it's going to be effective in an organic matrix such as wastewater is another issue that we haven't evaluated yet.
People on the front lines of water treatment tend to be skeptical of contaminant cleanup claims that sound too good to be true, although among the treatment community there is great interest in the Fe-TAML technology.
In the 12 April 2002 issue of Science and the January 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Carnegie Mellon team published the breakdown profile for pollutants such as pentachlorophenol, 2,4,6-trichlorophenol, and fenitrothion, where Fe-TAML processes appeared to provide an effective, nontoxic approach.
Thus, if the speed of estrogen degradation by the Fe-TAML catalyst holds up in large-scale applications without generating further toxic compounds, it would be a major boon to wastewater treatment.
The Fe-TAML catalyst degraded estrone about as efficiently as the estradiol in Shappell's test of the catalyst.