Aerobic biodegradation of nonylphenol ethoxylates in shaking-flask test
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEOs), which are widely used for industrial and domestic purposes, exert adverse effects on wildlife after being used and discharged into the environment. However, their ultimate biodegradability and biodegradation pathway remains unclear. In this study, the aerobic degradability of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEOs) by the acclimated microorganisms in active sludge was examined using shaking-flask tests. The degradation of benzene rings in NPEOs was determined using UV spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Results showed that more than 80% of benzene rings were removed after 8-10 days of degradation, and the majority of NPEOs were also removed after 9 days of degradation, indicating NPEOs and the benzene rings could be ultimately degraded by microorganisms in acclimated active sludge. Electrospray ionization-mass spectroscopy (ESI-MS) analysis of biodegradation intermediates indicate that stepwise omega, beta-oxidation of EO chains or fission of EO chains, and further omega, beta-oxidation of alkyl-chain for short-EO-chain NPEOs constitute the main pathway in the early stage, and complete biodegradation occur when the benzene rings in these molecules are opened in the later stage.