Biodegradation of hydrophobic pesticides by microalgae: Transformation products and impact on algae biochemical methane potential

Romina Avila, Andrea Peris, Ethel Eljarrat, Teresa Vicent, Paqui Blánquez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Intensive and extensive use of pesticides has contributed to their wide distribution in soil, air, and water. Due to their detrimental effects on non-target organisms, different technologies have been considered for their removal. In this work, three hydrophobic pesticide active compounds, namely, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, and oxadiazon, were selected to study the potential for their removal from aqueous media by a microalgae consortium. An abiotic and a killed control (thermally inactivated dead microalgae biomass) were employed to clarify their removal pathways, and pesticide content was quantified in liquid and biomass phases for 7 days. At the final time, total degradation (biodegradation plus photodegradation) contributed to the removal of 55% of oxadiazon, 35% of chlorpyrifos, and 14% of cypermethrin. Furthermore, more than 60% of chlorpyrifos and cypermethrin were removed by sorption onto microalgae biomass. Overall, the three pesticides showed high removal from the liquid phase. O,O-diethyl thiophosphate was identified in the liquid phase as a transformation product of chlorpyrifos formed by microalgae degradation. Phycoremediation was coupled with anaerobic degradation of the microalgae biomass containing the retained pesticides by sorption through biochemical methane potential tests. Anaerobic digestion was not inhibited by the pesticides as verified by methane production yields. The removal efficiency of the pesticides in the digestate was as follows: chlorpyrifos > cypermethrin > oxadiazon. These results highlight the potential of low-cost algal-based systems for the treatment of wastewater or effluents from agrochemical industries. The integration of wastewater treatment with biogas production through anaerobic digestion is a biorefinery approach that facilitates the economic feasibility of the process.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number142114
Pages (from-to)142114
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date1 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Agrochemicals
  • Biochemical methane potential
  • Biodegradation - Phycoremediation
  • Metabolites
  • Microalgae


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