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Environmental fate & pathways

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Note: the following information has been taken from either the finalised and published European Risk Assessment Report, prepared under EU Regulation 793/93 (and therefore considered reliable) or the finalised and published SIDS Initial Assessment Profile, prepared under the OECD HPV Program.

Furfural reacts rapidly with hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere; this reaction has an estimated half-life of 0.44 days. Nighttime destruction of furfural by nitrate radicals may be important in urban areas. Direct photochemical degradation is expected to occur (Howard, 1993) but no specific experimental data are available.

Furfural is not expected to hydrolyse under environmental conditions. In contrast, furfural is readily biodegradable according to the modified MITI (I) test (OECD 301C) and supporting data demonstrates it is rapidly biodegraded both under aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

Volatilisation of furfural from surface waters is not expected to be rapid since Henry law’s constant for furfural has been calculated to be 0.2 Pa.m3/mol. A Koc of 17.1 L/kg was calculated using a QSAR for non-hydrophobics. These values suggest that furfural is highly mobile in soil. Furfural may volatilize from soil to the atmosphere but this process is not expected to be rapid. Furfural in the atmosphere can be removed by wet deposition.

Based on Level III distribution modelling using EPISUITE (assuming equal and continuous releases to air, water and soil), it is estimated that the majority of furfural released to the environment will partition mainly into soil (53.2%) and water (45.6%) with small amounts to air (1.1%) and sediment (<0.1%). With the SimpleTreat model, the distribution of Furfural in a STP was simulated, showing that the substance will be degraded for 87% and the remaining part will go to the water compartment (13%).

Due to the high water solubility (83 g/L) and the low log Kow (0.41), furfural is not expected to bioaccumulate. Calculated BCF for fish and worm are 1.41 L/kg (Veith et al., 1979) and 0.95 L/kg (Connel & Markwell, 1990), respectively.

Additional references:

Connel DW, Markwell RD 1990; Bioaccumulation in the soil to earthworm system. Chemosphere 20, 91 -100

Howard, P.H. (editor) 1993; Handbook of environmental fate and exposure data for organic chemicals. Volume IV, Solvents 2. Lewis Publishers, Michigan

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