Photolysis primes biodegradation of benzo[a]pyrene

R. M. Miller, G. M. Singer, J. D. Rosen, R. Bartha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


14C-labeled benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) was used as a model compound for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in order to assess the effect of photolytic pretreatment on the subsequent fate of BaP in sewage sludge and soil test systems. Photolysis was performed in methanolic solution with or without 0.1 M H2O2, under either UV light (300 nm) or natural sunlight. The presence of H2O2 greatly enhanced the rate of photolysis both with UV and with natural sunlight. Intact BaP resisted biodegradation in both test systems. Photolysis transformed BaP to polar materials that were subject to increased mineralization and binding in both biological test systems. As shown by the Ames assay, photolysis decreased the mutagenicity of BaP to test strains TA98 and TA104 only moderately. The photolysate had an increased acute toxicity and lost its need for activation by S-9 enzymes. However, during subsequent incubation in soil or sewage sludge, mutagenicity decreased rapidly by one to two orders of magnitude and acute toxicity disappeared due to the mineralization and binding of photoproducts to humic materials. Photolysis of BaP and similar PAH compounds represents a useful treatment option that could be applied to certain PAH-containing petroleum refinery sludge and to coal tar residues in order to facilitate their detoxification and environmentally safe disposal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1724-1730
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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