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Refinement of biodegradation tests methodologies and the proposed utility of new microbial ecology techniques

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Timothy Martin, Professor Russell Davenport


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Society's reliance upon chemicals over the last few decades has led to their increased production, application and release into the environment. Determination of chemical persistence is crucial for risk assessment and management of chemicals. Current established OECD biodegradation guidelines enable testing of chemicals under laboratory conditions but with an incomplete consideration of factors that can impact on chemical persistence in the environment. The suite of OECD biodegradation tests do not characterise microbial inoculum and often provide little insight into pathways of degradation. The present review considers limitations with the current OECD biodegradation tests and highlights novel scientific approaches to chemical fate studies. We demonstrate how the incorporation of molecular microbial ecology methods (i.e., 'omics') may improve the underlying mechanistic understanding of biodegradation processes, and enable better extrapolation of data from laboratory based test systems to the relevant environment, which would potentially improve chemical risk assessment and decision making. We outline future challenges for relevant stakeholders to modernise OECD biodegradation tests and put the 'bio' back into biodegradation. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kowalczyk A, Martin TJ, Price OR, Snape JR, van Egmond RA, Finnegan CJ, Schafer H, Davenport RJ, Bending GD

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety

Year: 2015

Volume: 111

Pages: 9-22

Print publication date: 01/01/2015

Online publication date: 15/10/2014

Acceptance date: 23/09/2014

ISSN (print): 0147-6513

ISSN (electronic): 1090-2414



DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2014.09.021