Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) are widely used surfactants in domestic and industrial products, which are commonly found in wastewater discharges and in sewage treatment plant (STP) effluents. Degradation of APEs in wastewater treatment plants or in the environment generates more persistent shorter-chain APEs and alkylphenols (APs) such as nonylphenol (NP), octylphenol (OP) and AP mono- to triethoxylates (NPE1, NPE2 and NPE3). There is concern that APE metabolites (NP, OP, NPE1–3) can mimic natural hormones and that the levels present in the environment may be sufficient to disrupt endocrine function in wildlife and humans. The physicochemical properties of the APE metabolites (NP, NPE1–4, OP, OPE1–4), in particular the high K ow values, indicate that they will partition effectively into sediments following discharge from STPs. The aqueous solubility data for the APE metabolites indicate that the concentration in water combined with the high partition coefficients will provide a significant reservoir (load) in various environmental compartments. Data from studies conducted in many regions across the world have shown significant levels in samples of every environmental compartment examined. In the US, levels of NP in air ranged from 0.01 to 81 ng/m 3 , with seasonal trends observed. Concentrations of APE metabolites in treated wastewater effluents in the US ranged from <0.1 to 369 μg/l, in Spain they were between 6 and 343 μg/l and concentrations up to 330 μg/l were found in the UK. Levels in sediments reflected the high partition coefficients with concentrations reported ranging from <0.1 to 13,700 μg/kg for sediments in the US. Fish in the UK were found to contain up to 0.8 μg/kg NP in muscle tissue. APEs degraded faster in the water column than in sediment. Aerobic conditions facilitate easier further biotransformation of APE metabolites than anaerobic conditions.
Environment International – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 2002
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