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Fe-TAML(R) activators developed at Carnegie Mellon break down toxic pesticides

Carnegie Mellon University scientists have found that a rapid, environmentally friendly catalytic process involving Fe-TAML activators and hydrogen peroxide appears to totally break down some organophosphorus compounds, a widely used class of agricultural pesticides associated with profound toxicity.

The results of preliminary laboratory studies are being presented by Arani Chanda, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student, on Wednesday, Sept. 10, in New York City at the 226th annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (paper 162, "Total degradation of organophosphorus compounds using Fe-TAML activators of peroxide," Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division).

"These early results show that Fe-TAML activators are capable of breaking down some of the most harmful compounds that leach into our water supply," said Terry Collins, director of the Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon and the Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry at the Mellon College of Science (MCS).

Although effective at curbing insect damage to crops, some organophosphorus compounds have been associated with neurotoxicity and other health problems. Because organophosphorus compounds have a range of chemical structures, the Collins team is establishing the best methodologies to use Fe-TAML activators to decompose them into benign byproducts.

The Fe-TAML (TAML stands for tetra-amido macrocyclic ligand) activators are synthetic catalysts made with elements found in nature.

Currently, there are no commercial technologies to destroy organophosphorus compounds spread in agricultural settings. These chemicals break down naturally only over a long time period and can leave toxic byproducts. Theoretically, small amounts of Fe-TAML activators with hydrogen peroxide, or perhaps oxygen, as the oxidant could be spread on fields after a crop harvest to reduce the entry of the pesticides into the groundwater, as well as nearby streams and estuaries. Once th
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Contact: Lauren Ward
wardle@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-7761
Carnegie Mellon University
10-Sep-2003


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