pp 1-22 | Cite as

Environmental Sorption Behavior of Ionic and Ionizable Organic Chemicals

  • Luise Henneberger
  • Kai-Uwe GossEmail author
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series


Traditionally our tools for environmental risk assessment of organic chemicals have been developed for neutral chemicals. However, many commercial chemicals are ionic or ionizable and require different tools and approaches for their assessment. In recent years this task starts to obtain increasing attention but our understanding for their environmental fate is still far behind that for neutral chemicals. This review first gives an overview on the principles that govern ionic partitioning in environmental systems which are more complex than the simple partition processes of neutral chemicals. Second, a summary of our current knowledge on various topics such as bioaccumulation, sorption in soils, and nonspecific-toxicity reveals that ionic species can actually be quite hydrophobic contrary to commonly held beliefs. Eventually, we discuss existing models for the quantitative prediction of organic ions’ sorption in soils and biota. We have to assert that the available model tools are quite restricted in their application range compared to neutral chemicals which is due to the higher complexity of the various ionic sorption processes. In order to further advance our understanding more high-quality sorption data are needed with a focus on multivalent and zwitterionic ions in all partition systems as well as cations in biological matrices.


Ionizable organic chemicals Speciation Sorption Modelling Bioaccumulation Intermolecular interactions 



We thank Satoshi Endo and Beate Escher and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Institute of ChemistryUniversity of Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

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