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Aqueous Remediation of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) by Fenton’s Reagent: A Study of Oxidative Degradation, Byproduct Production, and Toxicological Effect
Principal Investigators: Dr. Susan J. Masten,
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
and Dr. James E. Trosko,
Department of Pediatrics and Human Development
Research Assistants: Andrea Y. Satoh
Sponsor: NIEHS-Superfund


Fenton’s reagent, a form of chemical oxidation, has been found to be an effective method of remediating polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated soils and aqueous solutions through oxidation by hydroxyl radicals. The Fenton’s reagent process involves the oxidation of ferrous iron (Fe2+) with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to generate highly reactive hydroxyl radicals (•OH). The objectives of this study are 1) to determine the most suitable set of conditions (pH, reaction time, Fe2+:H2O2 molar ratio, and initial concentrations of Fe2+ and H2O2) to achieve the maximum oxidative degradation of a selected PCB congener and 2) to determine the toxicity of the byproduct mixture resulting from the Fenton’s remediation of the selected PCB congener. Epigenetic toxicity occurs when a nonmutagenic and noncytotoxic chemical alters the expression of normal genes. The epigenetic toxicity of the parent PCB, potential Fenton’s remediation byproducts, and the byproduct mixture will be evaluated with the Gap Junctional Intercellular Communication (GJIC) bioassay. Gap junctions are organized collections of protein channels in the cell membrane that allow ions and small molecules (less than or equal to 1200 Da) to traverse passively between the cells they connect. This passage of ions and molecules constitutes GJIC. The ability to disrupt (inhibit) GJIC is indicative of a chemical’s epigenetic toxicity. In the GJIC bioassay, a fluorescent dye, Lucifer yellow, is applied to a confluent layer of WB-F344 rat liver epithelial cells that have been treated with the chemical toxicant of interest. The distance the dye travels perpendicular to a scrape made across the cell monolayer is indicative of the level of GJIC within the cell culture. Photos of GJIC bioassay results viewed under visible light and UV light are shown below.

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
3546 Engineering Building Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1226