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Keywords:

  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates;
  • Plant uptake;
  • Transpiration stream concentration factor

Abstract

Nonylphenol (NP) and other hydrophobic biodegradation intermediates of nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants have been identified in wastewater treatment biosolids. These biosolids often are land applied, but little is known regarding the potential uptake of biosolid-derived contaminants by plants. Hydroponic experiments, 11 to 14 weeks in duration, were conducted to examine the uptake and translocation of 14C and unlabeled NP, nonylphenol tetraethoxylate (NPE4), and nonylphenol nonylethoxylate (NPE9) by crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum). Phenol also was evaluated for comparison. Plant tissue was analyzed for 14C and for the parent compounds. Volatilization from the hydroponic system and rhizosphere mineralization also were quantified. At the conclusion of the study, most of the plant-associated 14C was found in the roots (NP = 98%, NPE4 = 92%, and NPE9 = 81%). Concentrations of 14C in the foliar tissue ranged from 0.002 to 0.045 mg—equivalent per kg (dry wt), but no parent compounds were detected, implying that the 14C was unextractable or in the form of metabolites. Transpiration stream concentration factors for NP, NPE4, and NPE9, calculated assuming the 14C was parent compound, were 0.012, 0.032, and 0.066, respectively. Little mineralization was observed for NP, NPE4, and NPE9 in the hydroponic system; however, for phenol, 16 to 30% of the added 14C was mineralized.