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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Oct 15;41(20):7164-70.

Evolution of ecotoxicity upon Fenton's oxidation of phenol in water.

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  • 1Ingeniería Química, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Ctra. Colmenar Km 15, 28049 Madrid, Spain.


This work deals with the evolution of intermediates and ecotoxicity upon Fenton's oxidation of phenol in aqueous solution. The EC50 values of the intermediates identified in the oxidation pathway of phenol have been measured. Some of these compounds, mainly hydroquinone and p-benzoquinone, showed toxicity levels much higher than phenol itself. Depending on the operating conditions, these intermediates could be completely transformed into organic acids, mainly oxalic and formic. Ecotoxicity values substantially lower than those expected from the chemical composition were measured in the reaction samples. This is explained by a reduction of the concentration of aromatic intermediates when the pH was adjusted at 6-8 (according to what is required by the standard bioassay ISO 11348-3). Formation of complexes between hydroquinone and p-benzoquinone at increasing pH can remove from solution those highly toxic intermediates whose very low EC50 values give rise to a high ecotoxicity even at fairly low concentrations. This together with the enhanced decomposition of residual H202 at increasing pH represent important beneficial effects of the neutralization step following Fenton treatment which allow a complementary cleaning of the effluent.

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