The experimental determination of reliable biodegradation rates for mono-aromatics towards evaluating QSBR models.


School of Engineering, Cassie Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, United Kingdom. Electronic address: [Email]


Quantitative Structure Biodegradation Relationships (QSBRs) are a tool to predict the biodegradability of chemicals. The objective of this work was to generate reliable biodegradation data for mono-aromatic chemicals in order to evaluate and verify previously developed QSBRs models. A robust biodegradation test method was developed to estimate specific substrate utilization rates, which were used as a proxy for biodegradation rates of chemicals in pure culture. Five representative mono-aromatic chemicals were selected that spanned a wide range of biodegradability. Aerobic biodegradation experiments were performed for each chemical in batch reactors seeded with known degraders. Chemical removal, degrader growth and CO2 production were monitored over time. Experimental data were interpreted using a full carbon mass balance model, and Monod kinetic parameters (Y, Ks, qmax and μmax) for each chemical were determined. In addition, stoichiometric equations for aerobic mineralization of the test chemicals were developed. The theoretically estimated biomass and CO2 yields were similar to those experimentally observed; 35% (s.d ± 8%) of the recovered substrate carbon was converted to biomass, and 65% (s.d ± 8%) was mineralised to CO2. Significant correlations were observed between the experimentally determined specific substrate utilization rates, as represented by qmax and qmax/Ks, at high and low substrate concentrations, respectively, and the first order biodegradation rate constants predicted by a previous QSBR study. Similarly, the correlation between qmax and selected molecular descriptors characterizing the chemicals structure in a previous QSBR study was also significant. These results suggest that QSBR models can be reliable and robust in prioritising chemical half-lives for regulatory screening purposes.


Biodegradation rates,Carbon mass balance,QSBR (quantitative structure biodegradation relationships),Risk assessment,