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Biodegradation tests of mercaptocarboxylic acids, their esters, related divalent sulfur compounds and mercaptans

Rücker, Christoph, Mahmoud, Waleed M. M., Schwartz, Dirk, Kümmerer, Klaus
Environmental science and pollution research international 2018 v.25 no.19 pp. 18393-18411
biodegradability, biodegradation, carboxylic acids, esters, hydrolysis, moieties, sulfides, sulfur, thiols
Mercaptocarboxylic acids and their esters, a class of difunctional compounds bearing both a mercapto and a carboxylic acid or ester functional group, are industrial chemicals of potential environmental concern. Biodegradation of such compounds was systematically investigated here, both by literature search and by experiments (Closed Bottle Test OECD 301D and Manometric Respirometry Test OECD 301F). These compounds were found either readily biodegradable or at least biodegradable to a significant extent. Some related compounds of divalent sulfur were tested for comparison (mercaptans, sulfides, disulfides). For the two relevant monofunctional compound classes, carboxylic acids/esters and mercaptans, literature data were compiled, and by comparison with structurally similar compounds without these functional groups, the influence of COOH/COOR’ and SH groups on biodegradability was evaluated. Thereby, an existing rule of thumb for biodegradation of carboxylic acids/esters was supported by experimental data, and a rule of thumb could be formulated for mercaptans. Concurrent to biodegradation, abiotic processes were observed in the experiments, rapid oxidative formation of disulfides (dimerisation of monomercaptans and cyclisation of dimercaptans) and hydrolysis of esters. Some problems that compromise the reproducibility of biodegradation test results were discussed.