The Degradation of Acetaldehyde in Estuary Waters in Southern California, USA

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Acetaldehyde plays an important role in oxidative cycles in the troposphere. Estimates of its air-water flux are important in global models. Biological degradation is believed to be the dominant loss process in water, but there have been few measurements, none in estuaries. Acetaldehyde degradation rates were measured in surface waters at the inflow to the Upper Newport Back Bay estuary in Orange County, Southern California, USA, over a 6-month period including the rainy winter season. Deuterated acetaldehyde was added to filtered and unfiltered water samples incubated in glass syringes, and its loss analyzed by purge and trap gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Filtered samples showed no significant degradation, suggesting that particle-mediated degradation is the dominant removal process. Correlation between measured degradation rate constants in unfiltered incubations and bacteria counts suggests the loss is due to microorganisms. Degradation in unfiltered samples followed first-order kinetics, with rate constants ranging from 0.0006 to 0.025 min-1 (k; average 0.0043 ± 0.006 min-1). Turnover (1/k) ranged from 40 to 1667 min, consistent with prior studies in coastal waters. Acetaldehyde concentrations in the estuary are estimated to range from 30 to ~500 nM (average ~250 nM). Results suggest the estuary is a source of acetaldehyde to the atmosphere.


This article was originally published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research volume, volume 28, in 2021.

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