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EC number: 203-466-5
CAS number: 107-13-1
The biodegradation of acrylonitrile in aqueous systems has been
extensively studied using a range of experimental systems. Much of the
earlier literature relates to experimental simulation tests, acclimation
studies and BOD/COD tests, rather than assessment of biodegradability
using current Annex V or OECD test methods. Although two recent ready
biodegradability tests carried out indicate that acrylonitrile cannot be
regarded as readily biodegradable, a third ready biodegradability study
in seawater has demonstrated almost 80% degradation over a 28-day
period. The majority of the earlier studies in the literature show
extensive biodegradation by acclimated microbial populations. When the
emission data from the majority of sites are also taken into account,
the EU RAR (2004) concluded that acrylonitrile is rapidly biodegradable
in situations where an adapted microbial population can be expected,
such as in an industrial wastewater treatment plant.
Three independent studies of acceptable quality indicate that
acrylonitrile does not meet the criteria for ready biodegradability.
Acrylonitrile has an initial inhibitory effect on activated sludge
systems and other microbial populations, and an acclimation period
appears to be necessary before biodegradation is established. However,
extensive biodegradation is seen in such acclimated systems, with
greater than 95% biodegradation being reported in a number of studies
which simulated conditions in a wastewater treatment plant. It can be
concluded that acrylonitrile will be extensively degraded following a
short acclimation period if emitted to WWTP from industrial point
sources, either primary production or secondary processing plants. The
experimental evidence also indicates that it will be rapidly degraded
following discharge into a marine environment, and that it will be
degraded, although at a slower rate, if released directly into the
The EU RAR reports a study investigating the biodegradation of [14C]-
acrylonitrile in a variety of surface soils, in which concentrations of
up to 100 ppm were degraded in under 2 days. Over 50% of radioactivity
was recovered as C02 after 6 days, with the transient formation of
acrylamide and acrylic acid. Higher concentrations (500 and 1000 ppm)
were degraded only slowly, and this correlates with experimental
evidence that these levels inhibit respiration of soil microbes, with
gradual acclimation. Wenzhonget al(1991) isolated 2 strains of
bacterium,Corynebacterium hoffmaniiandArthrobacter flavescens,
from nitrile-polluted soils. Aqueous cultures of these bacteria were
able to degrade 5g/l acrylonitrile. Similar breakdown by microbial
populations present in sediments is likely. Overall significant
accumulation in the soil or sediment compartments is not anticipated.
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