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Biodegradability of substances discharged to the aquatic environment

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The term 'biodegradability' is much used today, when most people, due to media exposure, are aware of the 'environment' and 'pollution'.  To say that a product or substance is 'biodegradable' infers to the layman that it is ecologically 'safe'.  Certainly it is safer than substances that contain persistent toxins (e.g. some pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons, tributyl tin, heavy metals etc).  

However, many substances are biodegradable, but would not be considered 'ecologically safe' by the layman.  A good example of this would be cyanide which can be broken down through the cyanate stage to free carbon dioxide and nitrogen by bacteria.  So cyanide is readily biodegradable.  A responsible person would not, however, discharge high levels of cyanide or its compounds to a river or foul sewer.

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