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Environmental fate & pathways

Biodegradation in water and sediment: simulation tests

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Description of key information

All studies available, simulating biodegradation under natural conditions, revealed biodegradation of the cresol isomers. m-Cresol and p-cresol were biodegraded under aerobic and anaerobic conditions in water as well as in different sediment types. o-Cresol was degraded by phenol acclimated activated sludge.   

Key value for chemical safety assessment

Additional information

Although the substances are readily biodegradable and no biodegradation simulation test has to be performed for sediments, there are studies available on biodegradation in sediments.


m-cresol and p-cresol

p-Cresol and m-cresol are biodegraded in aquifer sediment under anaerobic conditions (Smolenski and Suflita 1987) and by anoxic river sediment within 3-4 weeks (Kaminski et al., 1990).

p-Cresol was completely biodegraded within 4 weeks in a freshwater sediment (Haeggblom et al., 1990). p-Cresol was rapidly biodegraded (ca. 90% after 70 h) in water, water-sediment-suspensions, and by intact sediment-water cores (eco-cores) of marine, estuarine, and freshwater origin. No lag-phase was observed. Pre-exposure did not accelerate degradation (Van Veld and Spain 1983, Spain and Van Veld 1983).



The o-cresol metabolic pathway was examined by Masunaga (1986) using phenol-adapted activated sludge. About 90% of o-cresol is degraded after 24 hours and the metabolites also diminish significantly with time. The primary metabolic step is the ring-hydroxylation yielding isomers of dihydroxytoluene (3-methylcatechol, 4-methylresorcinol, methylhydroquinone). Secondary degradation products are formed either by further hydroxylation yielding trihydroxy and tetrahydroxy-toluenes or by cleavage of the aromatic ring system.