Ultraviolet treatment and biodegradation of dibenzothiophene: Identification and toxicity of products

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Abstract

Biodegradation of pollutants often results in incomplete mineralization and formation of degradation products with unknown chemical and toxicological characteristics. Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation, a common technology used in water and wastewater treatment, may help reduce aqueous concentrations of degradation products produced during biological treatment and their associated hazards. Combined biological and UV transformations may be important in natural systems as well. We investigated the effects of UV irradiation (254 nm) on dibenzothiophene (DBT), a sulfur-containing polyaromatic hydrocarbon, in artificial seawater, and its effects on biodegradation products produced from mixed-community microbial transformations of DBT, including DBT sulfone, DBT sulfoxide, hydroxylated and carboxylated benzothiophenes, thiosalicylic acid, and others. Toxicity of solutions after UV exposure was monitored using bioluminescent bacteria (Vibrio fischeri) and by evaluating cardiac deformities in Fundulus heteroclitus embryos. The highest UV fluence reduced DBT concentration by 28% when DBT was present as the sole organic solute. In postbiodegradation solution, the same fluence reduced the initial concentration of DBT by 81%, and 11 DBT biodegradation products to trace levels. Regardless of UV fluence, DBT by itself produced minimal effects in Fundulus embryos but was moderately toxic to V. fischeri. Postbiodegradation solutions were highly toxic to both test organisms. The highest UV fluence slightly reduced toxicity of postbiodegradation solution to V. fischeri but exacerbated cardiac deformities in Fundulus embryos. Toxicity could not be attributed to specific products and was likely a result of mixture effects. These results emphasize that toxicity can increase during remediation and that multiple assays may be necessary for evaluation. The novel approach of combined biodegradation/UV treatment is promising, although further research is needed to reduce toxicity in the case of DBT. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2409–2416. © 2010 SETAC

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