Occurrence of Transformation Products in the Environment

  • Dana W. Kolpin
  • William A. Battaglin
  • Kathleen E. Conn
  • Edward T. Furlong
  • Susan T. Glassmeyer
  • Steven J. Kalkhoff
  • Michael T. Meyer
  • Douglas J. Schnoebelen
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 2P)


Historically, most environmental occurrence research has focused on the parent compounds of organic contaminants. Research, however, has documented that the environmental transport of chemicals, such as pesticides and emerging contaminants, are substantially underestimated if transformation products are not considered. Although most examples described herein were drawn from research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, such results are generally reflective of those found in other parts of the world. Results from a study of 51 streams in the Midwestern United States found that transformation products were seven of the ten most frequently detected pesticide compounds in late spring runoff (after application of pre-emergent herbicides), and nine of the ten most frequently detected compounds in fall season runoff (during and after harvest). In fact, 70% of the total herbicide concentration in water from the Mississippi River Basin was from transformation products. Results from a study of 86 municipal wells in Iowa found the frequency of detection increased from 17%, when pesticide parent compounds were considered, to 53%, when both parents and transformation products were considered. Transformation products were 12 of the 15 most frequently detected compounds for this groundwater study. Although studies on transformation products of synthetic organic compounds other than pesticides are not as common, wastewater treatment plant discharges have repeatedly been shown to contribute such transformation products to streams. In addition, select detergent transformation products have been commonly found in solid waste in the 1000's mg/kg. These findings and many others document that transformation products must be considered to fully assess the potential environmental occurrence of chemical contaminants and their transport and fate in various compartments of the hydrologic system.

Ground water Surface water Transformation products  


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana W. Kolpin
    • 1
  • William A. Battaglin
    • 2
  • Kathleen E. Conn
    • 3
  • Edward T. Furlong
    • 4
  • Susan T. Glassmeyer
    • 5
  • Steven J. Kalkhoff
    • 1
  • Michael T. Meyer
    • 6
  • Douglas J. Schnoebelen
    • 1
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyDenver Federal CenterLakewoodUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Science and Engineering DivisionColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA
  4. 4.U.S. Geological SurveyDenver Federal CenterLakewoodUSA
  5. 5.U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNational Exposure Research LaboratoryCincinnatiUSA
  6. 6.U.S. Geological SurveyLawrenceUSA

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