“Tox Collector” — The Discovery Files

For decades, a particular class of toxic chemicals was added to everything from clothing to carpeting to fire-fighting foams to make them stain- or water-resistant or nonstick–until scientists discovered the compounds were toxic. Since learning of their hazardous nature, U.S. companies have largely stopped using the compounds. But how can we be sure that the raw materials those companies obtain, like the fabric for a shirt, aren’t already tainted with them? Graham Peasely, a chemistry professor at Hope College, found an answer in nuclear physics.