Impact of metals on the biodegradation of organic pollutants

Todd R. Sandrin, Raina M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


Forty percent of hazardous waste sites in the United States are co-contaminated with organic and metal pollutants. Data from both aerobic and anaerobic systems demonstrate that biodegradation of the organic component can be reduced by metal toxicity. Metal bioavailability, determined primarily by medium composition/soil type and pH, governs the extent to which metals affect biodegradation. Failure to consider bioavailability rather than total metal likely accounts for much of the enormous variability among reports of inhibitory concentrations of metals. Metals appear to affect organic biodegradation through impacting both the physiology and ecology of organic degrading microorganisms. Recent approaches to increasing organic biodegradation in the presence of metals involve reduction of metal bioavailability and include the use of metal-resistant bacteria, treatment additives, and clay minerals. The addition of divalent cations and adjustment of pH are additional strategies currently under investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1093-1101
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Bioavailability
  • Biodegradation
  • Bioremediation
  • Hazardous waste
  • Heavy metals
  • Inhibition
  • Metal toxicity
  • Pollutants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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