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Biodegradation is the biochemical process of the decomposition and mineralization of organic compounds that occurs, when organisms like bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other organisms use an organic substance as a source of carbon. It is a key phenomenon among environmental processes with the aim to assess a persistence  of organic substances.

Through this biologically natural process, hazardous toxic contaminants are transformed into less toxic or non-toxic substances, resp. a change appears from complex substances into simpler ones before returning to the environment.... Read more...

Ready Biodegradability

A classification of biodegradability made by the OECD describing the degradation of an organic substance under aerobic conditions to carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O), and minerals by aerobic bacteria as determined by the measured change of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), or CO2 evolution over time. A passing substance has to reach either a 60% BOD or theoretical CO2 evolution, or 70% decrease in DOC, depending on test method, all of which use a 10 - day window within a maximum 28-day test period for a successful determination. Readily biodegradable is defined as well as the ability of a product to biodegrade quickly and completely.

GuidelineDescriptionSubstance properties
OECD 301ADOC-Die-Away Test
water soluble, not volatile
CO2-Evolution Test (Sturm Test)
insoluble in water, not volatile
Closed-Bottle Test
poor water soluble, volatile
Manometric Respirometry Test
insoluble in water, volatile
OECD 310
CO2-Headspace Test

The following table shows the different Biodegradation Tests according OECD 301 which are applied in dependence of the substance properties.

 Test     Analytical methodSuitability for compounds which are:
poorly solublevolatile
DOC Die-Away (301A)
Dissolved organic carbon
Co2 Evolution (301B)Respirometry: CO2 evolution
Closed Bottle (301D)
Respirometry: dissolved oxygen
Manometric Respirometry (301F)
Oxygen consumption

Inherent Biodegradability

Inherent biodegradability refers to tests with a longer exposure of a test substance to microorganisms. Using favourable conditions, the tests of inherent biodegradability have been designed to assess whether the chemical has any potential for biodegradation under aerobic conditions. Inherently biodegradable is defined as the characteristic of a product to be consumed by naturally occurring organisms in nature over an indefinite period of time (> 20% but < 60% as measured by ready biodegradability testing). 

GuidelineDescriptionSubstance properties
OECD 302BZahn-Wellens / EMPA Test
insoluble in water, not volatile, filterable

Special Biodegradation Tests

InterBiotox offers also special biodegradation studies in anaerobic conditions simulating the conditions similar to an anaerobic digester. The other biodegradation studies simulates the biotic degradation of plastic materials in an aqueous medium.

OECD 311/ISO 11734Anaerobic Biodegradability of Organic Compounds in Digested Sludge
EN ISO 14851:2019
Determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials in an aqueous medium - Method by measuring the oxygen demand in a closed respirometer
EN ISO 14852:2018
Determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastic materials in an aqueous medium - Method by analysis of evolved carbon dioxide

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