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Biodegradation of four selected parabens with aerobic activated sludge and their transesterification product

Lu, Jing, Li, Haipu, Tu, Yi, Yang, Zhaoguang
Ecotoxicology and environmental safety 2018 v.156 pp. 48-55
activated sludge, adsorption, biodegradation, cosmetics, drugs, foods, half life, kinetics, mass spectrometry, methanol, methylparaben, pH, preservatives, temperature, transesterification, wastewater, wastewater treatment
Parabens are preservatives widely used in foodstuffs, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, which have led to elevated paraben concentrations in wastewater and receiving waters. Laboratory-scale batch experiments were conducted to investigate the adsorption and degradation of parabens in an aerobic activated sludge system. Results show that biodegradation plays a key role in removing parabens from the aerobic system of wastewater treatment plants, while adsorption on the sludge is not significant. The effects of parent paraben concentration, concentration of mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS), initial pH and temperature on degradation were investigated using kinetic models. The data shows that the degradation of parabens could be described by the first-order kinetic model with the rate constant ranging from 0.10 to 0.88 h⁻¹ at 25 °C and pH 7.0. Paraben degradation can be enhanced by increasing the MLSS concentration and temperature, or by decreasing the parent paraben concentration. Furthermore, the pH of the incubation system should be lower than 8.0. The half-lives of the parabens were estimated to range between 0.79 and 6.9 h, with methylparaben exhibiting the slowest degradation rate. During degradation in the present system, transesterification occurred, with methylparaben being the major transformation product in the incubation systems of ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. These results were confirmed by mass spectrometry and aliphatic alcohol additive experiments. This is the first discovery of paraben transesterification in an activated sludge system, and it is associated with trace methanol in the system.