Bioavailability and biodegradation of nonylphenol in sediment determined with chemical and bioanalysis

J.P.A. de Weert, A. de la Cal, J.H.J. van den Berg, A.J. Murk, A.A.M. Langenhoff, H.H.M. Rijnaarts, J.T.C. Grotenhuis

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24 Citations (Scopus)


The surfactant nonylphenol (NP) is an endocrine-disrupting compound that is widely spread throughout the environment. Although environmental risk assessments are based on total NP concentrations, only the bioavailable fraction posses an environmental risk. The present study describes the bioavailability and biodegradability of NP over time in contaminated river sediment of a tributary of the Ebro River in Spain. The bioavailable fraction was collected with Tenax TA® beads, and biodegradation was determined in aerobic batch experiments. The presence of NP was analyzed chemically using gas chromatography¿mass spectrometry and indirectly as estrogenic potency using an in vitro reporter gene assay (ER¿-luc assay). Of the total extractable NP in the sediment, 95% ± 1.5% (mean ± standard error) desorbed quickly into the water phase. By aerobic biodegradation, the total extractable NP concentration and the estrogenic activity were reduced by 97% ±0.5% and 94% ± 2%, respectively. The easily biodegradable fraction equals the potential bioavailable fraction. Only 43 to 86% of the estrogenic activity in the total extractable fraction, as detected in the ER¿-luc assay, could be explained by the present NP concentration. This indicates that other estrogenic compounds were present and that their bioavailability and aerobic degradation were similar to that of NP. Therefore, we propose to use NP as an indicator compound to monitor estrogenicity of this Ebro River sediment. To what extent this conclusion holds for other river sediments depends on the composition of the contaminants and/or the nature of these sediments and requires further testing
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-785
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • organic-compounds
  • nonionic surfactants
  • estrogenic activity
  • rainbow-trout
  • in-vitro
  • soils
  • 4-nonylphenol
  • contaminants
  • pollutants
  • river


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