SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — A small Illinois company that’s teamed up with government environmental researchers in Durham has launched a $45 filter that can rid of PFAS and is compatible with countertop pitchers, like the Brita. The Purefast cartridge lasts around three months and comes with a return label to ship it back to the company once used, where they safely dispose of the “forever chemicals” without reintroducing them to the environment.
It was first revealed in 2017 that these toxic substances were floating in the Cape Fear River, southeastern North Carolina’s drinking source, largely attributable to the dumping of upstream chemical company Chemours. Considered a global health hazard, the extent of their adverse health impacts is still not fully understood.
Public water utilities are spending millions to upgrade their systems in wake of the new knowledge, but those projects take years. Residents are left to fund costly at-home reverse osmosis systems, buy gallons at the store or travel to free water sources at parks.
CylocoPure’s Purefast is the first countertop filter designed to remove PFAS from tap water, according to the company’s CEO Frank Cassou. The standard Brita filter will clear drinking water of abnormal odors or tastes and remove some particulates. However, it’s no match for “forever chemicals.”
One Purefast filter can supply up to 65 gallons of PFAS-free water. That’s enough to replace 700 single-use water bottles, serving a family of four for about three months.
The company made its first sale from North Carolina this week, a customer from Leland, Cassou said.
“We completely remove GenX,” he added. “We’ve done a lot of tests of water around the country with our water test kits and pretty much North Carolina’s one of the exclusive places we see GenX come up.”
The Purefast product incorporates the company’s DEXSORB+ technology, made of cup-shaped cyclodextrins purchased from a third-party supplier. Derived from corn, the cyclodextrins’ molecular size — less than a nanometer across — makes it very selective to PFAS, Cassou said.
“These are really, really good absorbents,” Cassou explained. “People have used them for years. They’re used in Febreeze to remove odor from the air, but previously they were not available for use in water treatment. That was our science was to make them insoluble so that they could be used in the water. We took something that was naturally highly absorbent and really good at small molecules and then made it work in water treatment.”
The Durham-headquartered National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences helped bankroll the development of the technology with $1.15-million in grants since fiscal year 2018.
“The purpose of the [Superfund Research Program] small business grant program is to create tools that will improve people’s health,” SRP health scientist administrator Heather Henry, the program leader, said in NIEHS’ newsletter. “CycloPure is doing just that. It is a remarkable achievement that only four years after their grant started, they have launched a product that can help communities reduce their exposure to PFAS.”
In a lab, CycloPure detected zero PFAS for 65 gallons of filtered water. The company conducted testing for all 40 chemicals identified in the Environmental Protection Agency’s PFAS Roadmap. With the results, it obtained certification from the National Sanitation Foundation International in March, approving its commercial use.
Each Purefast filter arrives in the mail with a prepaid return label and directions to ship it back to CycloPure’s lab once used. The contaminants are then converted into salts and disposed of.
“We have technology here at CycloPure where we can recover any PFAS that are in the filter, and then we completely destroy it here,” Cassou said. “So there’s no kind of recontamination or reintroduction of it into the environment.”
CycloPure’s DEXSORB is deployed in other embodiments as well, such as filter papers within its $80 at-home water quality test kits. It is also used in refrigerator cartridges, under the sink and in larger treatment implementations. In two states, the company is trialing a point-of-entry system to treat all water coming into a house.
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