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Degradation of the endocrine-disrupting 4-nonylphenol by ferrate(VI): biodegradability and toxicity evaluation


4-Nonylphenol (4-NP) is an endocrine-disrupting and persistent chemical and is partially degraded in conventional wastewater treatment processes. Ferrate(VI) can be used as an environment-friendly oxidizing agent to mediate 4-NP degradation. Thus, this paper evaluates the biodegradability of 4-NP and its degradation products after the addition of ferrate(VI). The biodegradability was examined using NP labeled with 14C as a tracer and activated sludge microorganisms as an inoculum. The addition of ferrate(VI) to the 4-NP solution spiked with the tracer resulted in no remarkable decrease in the concentration of 14C, indicating incomplete mineralization of 4-NP and formation of degradation products. The degradation products from 4-NP with Fe(VI) were estimated based on mass spectra, which detected a unique peak at m/z 223 at low intensity. Four hydrogen atoms might have been added to 4-NP by degradation with Fe(VI). In addition, the effect of ferrate(VI) concentration on the estrogenic activity of 4-NP in an aqueous solution was investigated using a yeast bioassay. The results show that estrogenic activity was significantly decreased at a mass ratio of Fe(VI) to 4-NP greater than or equal to 2.5.

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All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.


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The authors would like to thank King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) for the Ph.D. scholarship. This work was financially supported by Iwate University.


This work was supported by the JSPS KAKENHI [grant numbers JP 25420554] and the Obayashi Foundation.

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Authors and Affiliations



Warunee Limmun: methodology, investigation, data curation, writing – original draft preparation; Nao Ishikawa: investigation, validation, reviewing; Jin Momotori: methodology; Masanori Terasaki: investigation, reviewing; Takumu Sato: methodology; Kotaro Kikuchi: methodology; Makoto Sasamoto: resources; Teruyuki Umita: supervision; Ayumi Ito: conceptualization, validation, writing – reviewing and editing.

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Correspondence to Ayumi Ito.

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The paper is a conceptualization and analysis of the published literature on the topic. No human subjects or animals were used in this paper.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Responsible Editor: Ricardo A. Torres-Palma

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Limmun, W., Ishikawa, N., Momotori, J. et al. Degradation of the endocrine-disrupting 4-nonylphenol by ferrate(VI): biodegradability and toxicity evaluation. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 18882–18890 (2022).

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  • 4-Nonylphenol
  • Ferrate(VI)
  • 14C-labeled 4-nonylphenol
  • Degradation product
  • Estrogenic activity