Professor Lesley Putman of Northern Michigan University, Department of Chemistry.
Her research focuses on phytoremediation, utilizing plants to clean up the environment. When it became legal for her at the university to conduct research with hemp, she decided to investigate the potential of hemp in addressing PFAS, a class of contaminants currently under scrutiny by the EPA. Within the PFAS group, she specifically focused on two compounds: PFBA and PFOS.
She initiated her studies with PFBA, as it is not known to be toxic, and subsequently shifted her attention to PFOS, which is considered toxic. The research commenced with hydroponic studies, progressing to greenhouse studies, and ultimately encompassing outdoor studies.
Her findings revealed that when hemp is cultivated hydroponically or in soil, it demonstrates the capability to uptake PFBA from the solution or soil, transporting it to the leaves and flowers. Furthermore, hemp exhibits the ability to absorb PFOS from water in hydroponic settings and from soil, although to a lesser extent compared to PFBA. Notably, the accumulation of PFOS was observed to be higher in the roots of hemp compared to the aerial parts of the plant.
Through her outdoor studies involving multiple varieties of fiber-hemp, she aims to demonstrate that hemp can play a significant role in the remediation or removal of PFOS from contaminated soil and water.