Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered a tiny anaerobic bacterium that could one day transform how polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are removed from the environment. The organism could be the key to developing methods that help detoxify commercial PCB compounds on site -- without the need for dredging.

In order to detoxify PCBs, the strong bonds between the chlorine atoms and the biphenyl compounds that make up the PCB atomic structure need to be broken, a process known as dechlorination. The bacteria replace the chlorines on the PCBs with hydrogen, which fuels microbial growth and begins the PCB degradation process.

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