John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Relationship between biodegradation and sorption of phthalate esters and their metabolites in natural sediments

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Regulatory evaluations of commercial chemicals in Canada, the United States, the European Union, and other countries aim to identify biodegradation rates of chemicals in natural soils and sediments. However, commonly used biodegradation testing methods are limited in their capacity to determine biodegradation rates under natural environmental conditions. As a result, widely varying biodegradation rates have been reported for many very hydrophobic substances. This variability causes difficulties in regulatory evaluations, potentially leading to chemical misclassification. In the present study, the authors developed a model of the relationship between biodegradation, sorption, and hydrophobicity, and tested the model in experiments that measured the biodegradation rates of a range of di‐phthalate esters (DPEs) and mono‐phthalate esters (MPEs) in natural sediments. The results indicate that DPEs and MPEs have the inherent capacity to be quickly degraded by microbes in sediments at a common rate, but that DPE biodegradation rates in natural sediments decrease with increasing phthalate ester sorption to sediments. The results show that inherently biodegradable substances that are subject to a high degree of sorption can be expected to exhibit long half‐lives in natural sediments. The model provides a potential methodology for assessing biodegradation rates in natural sediments from inherent biodegradation rates measured in screening tests by accounting for chemical sorption. The present study indicates that a reduced rate of biodegradation is due to a reduced fraction of freely dissolved chemical concentration in the interstitial water, and that the environmental significance of sorption‐reduced biodegradation rates needs to be viewed in the context of risk in chemical evaluations. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. © 2012 SETAC

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