Environmental Fate of Chiral Pollutants – the Necessity of Considering Stereochemistry


  • Hans-Peter E. Kohler
  • Werner Angst
  • Walter Giger
  • Carlo Kanz
  • Stephan Müller
  • Marc J.-F. Suter





Many organic compounds regulated by environmental laws are chiral and are released into the environment as racemates. 3-Phenylbutanoic acid and mecoprop, two chiral pollutants, were enantioselectively degraded by pure cultures of microorganisms. This indicates the importance of assessing the environmental impact of stereoisomers separately, because selective enrichment of one of the enantiomers may occur in the environment. Field studies on the fate of highly polar, chiral compounds, like sulfophenylcarboxylates, are hampered by the lack of appropriate analytical methods for the separation of the enantiomers. Therefore, a method based on capillary electrophoresis with α-cyclodextrin as chiral selector was developed to separate the enantiomers of such compounds. In a field study at a Swiss waste disposal site, the fate of the chiral herbicide mecoprop was investigated. The enantiomeric ratio of (R)-mecoprop to (S)-mecoprop altered during groundwater passage of landfill leachate. This is a strong indication for in situ biodegradation. Our data imply that not only the enantiomers of a chiral drug or pesticide may exert different effects on the biological targets, but also their biodegradation and environmental fate may differ.




How to Cite

H.-P. E. Kohler, W. Angst, W. Giger, C. Kanz, S. Müller, M. J.-F. Suter, Chimia 1997, 51, 947, DOI: 10.2533/chimia.1997.947.



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