Hanno C. Erythropel, Patrick Dodd, Richard L. Leask, Milan Maric, David G. Cooper
McGill University, Department of Chemical Engineering, Wong Building, 3610 Rue University, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3A 2B2.
Phthalate diesters such as di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) are considered ubiquitous contaminants and are poorly biodegraded in the environment. Moreover, both the parent compound and stable metabolites such as mono (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP) are linked to several negative impacts on the environment and human health. Earlier work established that saturated diester compounds, such as succinates, showed better biodegradation characteristics and comparable plasticizer properties compared to DEHP. In this work we examine the effect of alkyl chain length of succinate molecules on plasticizer and biodegradation properties. This included both the side chains (n-ethyl to n-octyl) as well as substituents on the middle part of the succinate molecule. We showed that the common soil bacterium Rhodococcus rhodocrous could rapidly break down all unsubstituted succinates, without the appearance of stable metabolites. Furthermore, the organisms used the plasticizer metabolites as carbon source. The introduction of a large cyclohexyl substituent on the succinate resulted in a poorer degradation rate. Glass Transition Temperature (Tg) measurements were performed to evaluate plasticizer properties and showed that longer side chains reduced the Tg more efficiently, while large cyclohexyl substituents on the succinate decreased this effect. However, all compounds performed better or equal to DEHP at reducing the Tg.