Innovative Perchlorate Research
Perchlorate was first identified as an environmental contaminant in the late 1900s and was added to the Environmental Protection Agency's Contaminant candidate list in 1998. To mediate its effects on the environment, bioremediation is a process where microorganisms are used to break down pollutants like perchlorate.
Perchlorate is a soluble anion that is naturally produced in the atmosphere and can collect in dry areas, specifically the Chilean Atacama desert as well as the dry valleys of the Antarctic. Perchlorate is also produced anthropogenically (relating to the influence of human beings on nature), primarily as a component of rocket fuel. Perchlorate is known to affect the thyroid as it is structurally similar to iodate, which regulates thyroid function.
The Coates lab has isolated and characterized most of the known microbes that break perchlorate down into innocuous chloride. As a part of these studies, the lab demonstrated the environmental ubiquity of this metabolism and identified the dominant species responsible in the environment. Furthermore, the lab is working to understand the evolution and genetics of perchlorate reduction and to determine the environmental factors controlling perchlorate metabolism.