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Degradation of trifluoroacetate in oxic and anoxic sediments

Nature

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, ,
DOI: 10.1038/369729a0

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Abstract

THE deleterious effect of chlorofluorocarbons on stratospheric ozone has led to international cooperation to end their use. The search for acceptable alternatives has focused on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which are attractive because they have relatively short atmospheric residence times. HFCs and HCFCs are attacked by tropospheric hydroxyl radicals, leading to the formation of trifluoroacetate (TFA). Most of the atmospheric TFA is deposited at the Earth's surface, where it is thought to be highly resistant to bacterial attack. Therefore, use of HCFCs and HFCs may lead to accumulation of TFA in soils, where it could prove toxic or inhibitory to plants and soil microbial communities. Although little is known about the toxicity of TFA, monofluoroacetate, which occurs at low levels in some plants and which is susceptible to slow attack by aerobic soil microbes, is known to be acutely toxic. Here we report that TFA can be rapidly degraded microbially under anoxic and oxic conditions. These results imply that significant microbial sinks exist in nature for the elimination of TFA from the environment. We also show that oxic degradation of TFA leads to the formation of fluoroform, a potential ozone-depleting compound with a much longer atmospheric lifetime than the parent compounds.The deleterious effect of chlorofluorcarbons on stratospheric ozone has led to international cooperation to end their use. The search for acceptable alternatives has focused on hydroflnorocarbons (HFCs) or hydrochloroflnorcarbons (HCFs) which are attractive because they have relatively short atmospheric residence times. HFCs and HCFs are attacked by tropospheric hydroxyl radicals, leading to the formation of trifluoroacetate (TFA). Most of the atmospheric TFA is deposited at the Earth's surface, where it is thought to be highly resistant to bacterial attack. Therefore, use of HCFs and HCFs may lead to accummulation of TFA in soils, where it could prove toxic or inhibitory to plants and soil microbial communities. Although little is known about the toxicity of TFA, monofluoracetate, which occurs at low levels in some plants and which is susceptible to slow attack by aerobic soil microbes, is known to be acutely toxic. Here we report that TFA can be rapidly degraded microbially under anoxic and oxic conditions. These results imply that significant microbial sinks exist in nature for the elimination of TFA from the environment. We also show that oxic degradation of TFA leads to the formation of fluoroform, a potential ozone-depleting compound with a much longer atmospheric lifetime than the parent compounds.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Degradation of trifluoroacetate in oxic and anoxic sediments
Series title:
Nature
DOI:
10.1038/369729a0
Volume
369
Issue:
6483
Year Published:
1994
Language:
English
Publisher:
Macmillan Magazines Ltd
Publisher location:
London, United Kingdom
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Nature
First page:
729
Last page:
731
Number of Pages:
3