Mono-alkyl phthalate esters (MPEs) are primary metabolites of di-alkyl phthalate esters (DPEs), a family of industrial chemicals widely used in the production of soft polyvinyl chloride and a large range of other products. To better understand the long term fate of DPEs in the environment, we measured the biodegradation kinetics of eight MPEs (-ethyl, -n-butyl, -benzyl, -i-hexyl, -2-ethyl-hexyl, -n-octyl, -i-nonyl, and -i-decyl monoesters) in marine and freshwater sediments collected from three locations in the Greater Vancouver area. After a lag period in which no apparent biodegradation occurred, all MPEs tested showed degradation rates in both marine and freshwater sediments at 22 °C with half-lives ranging between 16 and 39 h. Half-lives increased approximately 8-fold in incubations performed at 5 °C. Biodegradation rates did not differ between marine and freshwater sediments. Half-lives did not show a relationship with increasing alkyl chain length. We conclude that MPEs can be quickly degraded in natural sediments and that the similarity in MPE degradation kinetics among sediment types suggests a wide occurrence of nonspecific esterases in microorganisms from various locations, as has been reported previously.
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