Can degradation products be used as documentation for natural attenuation of phenoxy acids in groundwater?

Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Jan 15;38(2):457-67. doi: 10.1021/es030039e.


In situ indicators of degradation are important tools in the demonstration of natural attenuation. A literature survey on the production history of phenoxy acids and degradation pathways has shown that metabolites of phenoxy acid herbicides also are impurities in the herbicide products, making the bare presence of these compounds useless as in situ indicators. These impurities can make up more than 30% of the herbicides. Degradation of phenoxy acids was demonstrated in microcosm experiments using groundwater and sediment contaminated with MCPP, dichlorprop, and related compounds such as other phenoxypropionic acids and chlorophenols. Field observations at two phenoxy acid-contaminated sites showed the occurrence of several impurities including metabolites in the groundwater. Neither the microcosm experiments nor the field observations verified that metabolites were actually produced or accumulated in situ. However, it was demonstrated that the impurity/parent herbicide ratios can be useful in situ indicators of degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acids / analysis*
  • Acids / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Chlorophenols / analysis*
  • Chlorophenols / metabolism*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Herbicides / analysis*
  • Herbicides / metabolism*
  • Phenols / analysis*
  • Phenols / metabolism*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Soil
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Acids
  • Chlorophenols
  • Herbicides
  • Phenols
  • Soil
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical