Biodegradation testing of volatile hydrophobic chemicals in water-sediment systems – Experimental developments and challenges

Prasit Shrestha*, Boris Meisterjahn, Christopher B. Hughes, Philipp Mayer, Heidi Birch, Dieter Hennecke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Degradation data are crucial for the persistence assessment of chemicals and they are generated using standard OECD guidelines. The OECD 308 describes a simulation biodegradation test of chemicals in water-sediment systems. This guideline is not applicable for testing highly volatile chemicals and recommends a closed biometer test setup for testing slightly volatile chemicals. However, proper details on system geometries, construction and monitoring of aerobic conditions are not provided. The choice of system geometry and sediment:water ratio influences the partitioning of test chemicals between different compartments (water, sediment and headspace) and can therefore affect their degradation. The guideline recommends the addition of test chemical via aqueous solutions, which however is not possible for hydrophobic volatile chemicals due to their volatilization losses and low solubility. Thus, the use of a co-solvent is necessary for the application of such chemicals but its effects in a closed setup has not been studied. We recently developed an improved closed test setup for testing volatile chemicals in soil. The objective was to adapt this improved test setup to conduct OECD 308 tests using 14C labelled chemicals with different volatilities. Using the adapted test setup it was possible to obtain a complete mass balance even for n-decane and tetralin having the highest Henry's constants of the tested chemicals. However, the use of co-solvent affected the oxygen levels, which in turn affected microbial activity and likely also the degradation of test chemicals. Therefore, the adapted test setup needs further developments for the testing of volatile hydrophobic chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124516
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Bio-film
  • Biodegradation
  • Closed setup
  • Mass balance
  • OECD 308
  • Volatile chemicals


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