The Science of the total environment

Evaluation of fungal- and photo-degradation as potential treatments for the removal of sunscreens BP3 and BP1.

PMID 22542301


Photodecomposition might be regarded as one of the most important abiotic factors affecting the fate of UV absorbing compounds in the environment and photocatalysis has been suggested as an effective method to degrade organic pollutants. However, UV filters transformation appears to be a complex process, barely addressed to date. The white rot fungus Trametes versicolor is considered as a promising alternative to conventional aerobic bacterial degradation, as it is able to metabolise a wide range of xenobiotics. This study focused on both degradation processes of two widely used UV filters, benzophenone-3 (BP3) and benzophenone-1 (BP1). Fungal treatment resulted in the degradation of more than 99% for both sunscreens in less than 24 h, whereas photodegradation was very inefficient, especially for BP3, which remained unaltered upon 24 h of simulated sunlight irradiation. Analysis of metabolic compounds generated showed BP1 as a minor by-product of BP3 degradation by T. versicolor while the main intermediate metabolites were glycoconjugate derivatives. BP1 and BP3 showed a weak, but significant estrogenic activity (EC50 values of 0.058 mg/L and 12.5 mg/L, respectively) when tested by recombinant yeast assay (RYA), being BP1 200-folds more estrogenic than BP3. Estrogenic activity was eliminated during T. versicolor degradation of both compounds, showing that none of the resulting metabolites possessed significant estrogenic activity at the concentrations produced. These results demonstrate the suitability of this method to degrade both sunscreen agents and to eliminate estrogenic activity.