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Aerobic Biodegradation of a Nonylphenol Polyethoxylate and Toxicity of the Biodegradation Metabolites


In this paper a study was made of the biodegradation of a non-ionic surfactant, a nonylphenol polyethoxylate, in biodegradability tests by monitoring the residual surfactant matter. The influence of the concentration on the extent of primary biodegradation, the toxicity of biodegradation metabolites, and the kinetics of degradation were also determined. The primary biodegradation was studied at different initial concentrations: 5, 25 and 50 mg/L, (at sub-and supra-critical micelle concentration). The NPEO used in this study can be considered biodegradable since the primary biodegradation had already taken place (a biodegradation greater than 80% was found for the different initial concentration tested). The initial concentration affected the shape of the resulting curve, the mean biodegradation rate and the percentage of biodegradation reached (99% in less than 8 days at 5 mg/L, 98% in less than 13 days at 25 mg/L and 95% in 14 days at 50 mg/L). The kinetic model of Quiroga and Sales (1991) was applied to predict the biodegradation of the NPEO. The toxicity value was measured as EC20 and EC50. In addition, during the biodegradation process of the surfactant a toxicity analysis was made of the evolution of metabolites generated, confirming that the subproducts of the biodegradation process were more toxic than the original.

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Correspondence to Mercedes Fernández-Serrano.

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Jurado, E., Fernández-Serrano, M., Núñez-Olea, J. et al. Aerobic Biodegradation of a Nonylphenol Polyethoxylate and Toxicity of the Biodegradation Metabolites. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 83, 307–312 (2009).

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  • Biodegradation
  • Nonylphenol polyethoxylate
  • Toxicity
  • Kinetics