Volatile organic sulfur compounds in anaerobic sludge and sediments: biodegradation and toxicity

R.C. van Leerdam, F.A.M. de Bok, B.P. Lomans, A.J.M. Stams, P.N.L. Lens, A.J.H. Janssen

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40 Citations (Scopus)


A variety of environmental samples was screened for anaerobic degradation of methanethiol, ethanethiol, propanethiol, dimethylsulfide, and dimethyldisulfide. All sludge and sediment samples degraded methanethiol, dimethylsulfide, and dimethyldisulfide anaerobically. In contrast, ethanethiol and propanethiol were not degraded by the samples investigated under any of the conditions tested. Methanethiol, dimethylsulfide, and dimethyldisulfide were mainly degraded by methanogenic archaea. In the presence of sulfate and the methanogenic inhibitor bromoethane sulfonate, degradation of these compounds coupled to sulfate reduction occurred as well, but at much lower rates. Besides their biodegradability, also the toxicity of methanethiol, ethanethiol, and propanethiol to methanogenesis with methanol, acetate, and H2/CO2 as the substrates was assessed. The 50% inhibition concentration of methanethiol on the methane production from these substrates ranged between 7 and 10 mM. The 50% inhibition concentration values of ethanethiol and propanethiol for the degradation of methanol and acetate were between 6 and 8 mM, whereas hydrogen consumers were less affected by ethanethiol and propanethiol, as indicated by their higher 50% inhibition concentration (14 mM). Sulfide inhibited methanethiol degradation already at relatively low concentrations: methanethiol degradation was almost completely inhibited at an initial sulfide concentration of 8 mM. These results define the operational limits of anaerobic technologies for the treatment of volatile organic sulfur compounds in sulfide-containing wastewater streams
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3101-3109
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • microbial degradation
  • sludges
  • sediment
  • anaerobic treatment
  • waste water treatment
  • sulfates
  • thiols
  • reduction
  • sulfate
  • methanol
  • biodegradation
  • fresh-water sediments
  • dimethyl sulfide
  • membrane bioreactor
  • waste air
  • methanethiol
  • degradation
  • inhibition
  • removal
  • ph
  • methanogens


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