Anaerobic degradation of benzene in diverse anoxic environments

J. Kazumi, M. E. Caldwell, J. M. Suflita, D. R. Lovley, L. Y. Young

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182 Scopus citations


Benzene has often been observed to be resistant to microbial degradation under anoxic conditions. A number of recent studies, however, have demonstrated that anaerobic benzene utilization can occur. This study extends the previous reports of anaerobic benzene degradation to sediments that varied with respect to contamination input, predominant redox condition, and salinity. In spite of differences in methodology, microbial degradation of benzene was noted in slurries constructed with sediments from various geographical locations and range from aquifer sands to fine-grained estuarine muds, under methanogenic, sulfate-reducing, and iron-reducing conditions. In aquifer sediments under methanogenic conditions, benzene loss was concomitant with methane production, and microbial utilization of [14C]benzene yielded 14CO2 and 14CH4. In slurries with estuarine and aquifer sediments under sulfate-reducing conditions, the loss of sulfate in amounts consistent with the stoichiometric degradation of benzene or the conversion of [14C]benzene to 14CO2 indicates that benzene was mineralized. Benzene loss also occurred in the presence of Fe(III) in sediments from freshwater environments. Microbial benzene utilization, however, was not observed under denitrifying conditions. These results indicate that the potential for the anaerobic degradation of benzene, which was once thought to be resistant to non-oxygenase attack, exists in a variety of aquatic sediments from widely distributed locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-818
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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