Impact of simulated sunlight on the degradation of pendimethalin in surface water in a scale‑up experiment in accordance to OECD TG 309
Background OECD TG 309 ""Aerobic Mineralisation in Surface Water"" (OECD Test Guideline 309 (2004)) is currently used in regulation for the assessment of the persistence of chemicals in surface water. The test is performed in a batch under defined conditions. Processes which might be relevant for the fate of a chemical in surface water like direct and indirect photolysis are not addressed. In order to study the impact of sunlight on the fate in surface water, pendimethalin, a herbicidal active substance with known sensitivity to aqueous photolysis, was used. This was tested in an experiment based on OECD 309, but scaled up to 900 L size with a 1.40 m water column and irradiated with special lamps in order to monitor the fate of the substance at different water depths, in comparison to dark controls. Results Pendimethalin degraded significantly under the applied test conditions. The test setups with exposure to simulated sunlight showed a significant faster degradation compared to the dark experiments. Application of 900 g sediment (1% of test system) to the test system further increased the degradation rate. In the simulated sunlight setups a faster degradation was observed in the upper water layer, hence, the concentration of the photolysis products were highest in the upper water layer, where the highest light intensity was measured. With decreasing light intensity in deeper water layers photolysis products were still detected at a water depth of 125 cm. Mineralisation up to 22% of the applied radioactivity was observed. In the dark controls neither significant amounts of photolysis products nor any mineralisation were detected. Among the different sampling depths no significant differences were observed. It was further observed that the dark controls became anaerobic at the end of the incubation time. This has been observed previously in standard laboratory tests according to OECD 309. Conclusions The study proves that for a substance sensitive to photolysis like pendimethalin, exposure to simulated sunlight leads to a significantly reduced degradation half-life (DegT50) in surface water compared to the dark control. In the standard test according to OECD guideline 309 the influence of photolytical degradation is not considered and thus the laboratory test can lead to the overestimation of the persistence of a chemical in surface water and consequently to a false-positive evaluation in the overall PBT assessment (ECHA Guidance on Information Requirements and Chemical Safety Assessment 2004), when only the results of the standard OECD 309 study are considered.