Using toxicity testing to evaluate electrochemical reactor operations



In the present study, the Microtox® test was used to track the toxicity of electrochemical effluents to the marine bacteria Vibrio fischeri as a function of reaction time. When electrochemistry was used to degrade aqueous phenol using different reactor configurations, two reaction pathways were identified, chlorine substitution and oxidation, depending on whether the electrolyte contained chloride. For a boron-doped diamond (BDD) anode, electrochemistry using Na2SO4 electrolyte produced a significantly more toxic effluent than when using NaCl electrolyte with all other conditions remaining the same. This effect is attributed to the reaction pathway, specifically the production of benzoquinone. Benzoquinone was produced only during electrochemistry using Na2SO4 and is the most toxic potential intermediate, having nearly 800 times more toxicity than phenol. Although the use of NaCl produced a lower toxicity effluent than Na2SO4, caution should be observed because of the production of chlorinated phenols, which can be of special environmental concern. When comparing graphite rod and BDD plate anodes in terms of toxicity evolution when using Na2SO4, BDD was found to produce a lower toxicity effluent; this is a result of the increased oxidizing power of BDD, reducing the formation of benzoquinone. In this comparison, the type of anode material/electrode configuration did not seem to affect which intermediates were detected but did affect the quantity of and rate of production of intermediates. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:494–500. © 2011 SETAC