Anaerobic Biodegradation of Hydrocarbons

  • John D. Coates
Part of the Soil Biology book series (SOILBIOL, volume 2)


Hydrocarbons are a generic group of compounds composed exclusively of hydrogen and carbon. They represent one of the most important groups of chemicals to mankind because of their natural abundance, their industrial importance, their extensive use as a primary energy source throughout the world, and their toxicity. Benzene, for example, has a broad range of industrial uses and represents one of the top 20 production volume chemicals produced in the United States, which represents 35% of the worldwide production. In addition to use in petroleum-based fuels, benzene is used for the manufacture of a diversity of other chemicals, rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides. Alternative sources, including volcanoes, forest fires, and cigarette smoke, also contribute significantly to benzene in the environment. Benzene is considered one of the most prevalent organic contaminants in groundwater (Anderson and Lovley 1997) and poses a significant health risk due to its toxicity and relatively high solubility. It is ranked fifth on the US National Priorities List (NPL), and has been found in more than 50% of the 1428 current or former NPL sites (URL: Benzene is highly toxic and is a known human carcinogen and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the maximum permissible level of 5µgl−1 of benzene in drinking water with an ultimate goal of zero tolerance.


Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Anaerobic Degradation Anaerobic Oxidation Anaerobic Biodegradation Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Degradation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Coates
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant and Microbial BiologyUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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