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Diss Factsheets

Environmental fate & pathways

Endpoint summary

Administrative data

Description of key information

Additional information

In the natural environment the fate and behaviour of HEDP and its ions are dominated by abiotic dissociation / complexing, irreversible adsorption to surfaces, and to a lesser extent by degradation processes. The most important properties are summarised in the table below.

Summary of significant properties affecting environmental fate of HEDP and its salts


Values / results for HEDP acid form

Values / results for HEDP sodium salts


Reference / comment

Vapour pressure

1.65 x 10-08 Pa (estimated)

<1.65x10-08 Pa (estimated)


MPBPVP (v1.43; EpiWeb4.0, 2009, Syracuse Research Corporation)


Water solubility

690 g/L: 60% w/w produced commercially

³50% m/m (see note below)



Merck Index, 13thedition
Monsanto (1971)


Log Kow


 Expected to be <-3.5


Michael, P.R. (undated, believed to be 1979a)


Biodegradability (see Section 5.2.1)

Not rapidly degradable

 Little biodegradation seen in simulation tests under various conditions or in soils





Saeger V.W. et al., Monsanto (1978)

Henkel, various


Abiotic degradability (see Section 5.1.1, 5.1.3)


Significantly susceptible to photodegradation

The product is more susceptible to biodegradation than the parent structure


Gledhill and Feijtel, 1992




Highly adsorbing in a process which is largely irreversible


Gledhill and Feijtel, 1992




Very low (BCF <7 and 71 at two test concentrations)


EG&G 1976


While some biodegradation has been observed, the results for HEDP and its salts do not show significant biodegradation in the short term, and they are not readily or inherently biodegradable, based on several reliable studies (OECD 301D, SafePharm, 1992; inherent test, Henkel, 1976; anaerobic test, Henkel, 1981; for further details, please refer to data set Section 5.2). However, photodegradation in water in the presence of common metal ions has been observed (Steber and Wierich, 1986 and Saeger, 1979; for further details, please refer to data set Section 5.1.3). Based on evidence from the data summarised in this section, members of this group are considered to be partially degradable over short time periods, and with evidence of mineralisation, particularly in the light, over longer periods. Oxidation may also play a role in the longer term environmental fate of HEDP, based on evidence of oxidation of structurally analogous phosphonates in the form of manganese complexes (Nowack and Stone, 2003).

Removal from the aqueous phase occurs principally by irreversible adsorption to substrates present (minerals), and to a lesser extent removal by photodegradation, oxidation in the presence of iron(III) and limited biodegradation. The significant role of adsorption is discussed later in this section with relevant data across the analogue group presented in Table 4.2.1. For HEDP Ksolids-water (sediment)= 830-7900 l/kg (soft water), 680-2700 l/kg (hard water) is reported in the key study. Bioavailability from solution is extremely low due to the highly unfavourable hydrophilicity (reliable measured BCF 71, supported by log Kow<-3.5 under environmental conditions).

In soil and sediments, removal is expected to occur by the same partitioning mechanisms. A consistent value of Ksolids-water (soil) is ~790 l/kg. Bioavailability from interstitial water present in soils and sediments is extremely low due to both the very strong adsorption and unfavourable bioconcentration properties, even if the phosphonate were to be ingested in an adsorbed state in the soil or sediment constituents.

The properties of HEDP and its salts are profoundly directed by their ionisation behaviour, as discussed in the table and paragraphs below.

Table: Ionisation behaviour of HEDP and impact on environmental fate


Relevant information for HEDP

Reference / comment

Multiple ionisations

5 possible ionisations

Two sets of pKa values in literature (1.7, 2.47, 7.28 and 10.29); (1.6, 2.7, 6.9, 11.0)

At pH7, HEDP2-predominates, based on the pKa values


Martell and Sillen, 1968; Lacour et al (1999)

Implication for partitioning and environmental fate

very hydrophilic with very high solubility limit in water (several hundred grams per litre)

highly adsorbing (please refer to section describing adsorption evidence)



strong complexing agent

calcium complex (88%) and magnesium complex (12%) predominate in natural waters in presence of natural ligands


Nowack (2003)


HEDP can ionise by loss of a hydrogen ion up to five times. The fifth ionisation (of the hydroxy group) cannot be attained under normal aqueous conditions. As a consequence of these properties and the molecular shape, it is a strong complexing agent, for metal ions and is highly hydrophilic. Because ionisation is a rapid and reversible process, salts such as sodium and potassium salts will dissolve readily in water to give a speciation state dictated by the pH of the medium. In a primary data source for information on pKa values and stability constants (Martell and Sillen, 1968), pKa values of HEDP are reported, of 1.7, 2.47, 7.28 and 10.29. These were measured in 0.1 M potassium chloride. Also, four pKa values of HEDP (at 0.1 M ionic strength potassium nitrate) are 1.6, 2.7, 6.9, 11.0 are reported by Lacour et al (1999).

Ionisation state of a particular functionality changes most significantly at the pKa value (50% ionisation at the pKa value), but at one pH unit lower than the pKa there is still 10% ionisation (of the acidic functional groups). In the present case, this means that at pH 7, HEDP in water will have two almost fully ionised groups, with a smaller proportion of the molecules ionised three times; HEDP acid in its molecular state is not present under the normal conditions of the natural environment considered in the chemical safety assessment.

Sodium and potassium counter-ions, where present, are not significant in respect of the properties under consideration and have been assessed in depth in the public literature. Additionally, the counterions are expected to fully dissociate when in contact with water, including atmospheric moisture, but the phosphonate will complex with polyvalent metal ions when they are present. Nowack (2003) presents calculated speciation of HEDP in natural river water sample from Switzerland with typical composition of metals, anthropogenic and natural ligands. The other ligands compete with HEDP and must be taken into account for a truly realistic assessment. In the presence of no other ligands, the mass balance is 88% as calcium complex, 12% as magnesium complex and 0.1% as copper complex. In the presence of ETDA, NTA and natural ligands, HEDP is present as calcium complex (88%) and magnesium complex (12%) only.

In this context, for the purpose of this assessment, read-across of data within the HEDP Category is considered to be valid.

Further information on the category and the validity of read-across are presented in Chapter 1.4 of the CSR, and in the Category data matrix document.