Technological watch

Microbial consortia degrade several widely used organic UV filters, but a number of hydrophobic filters remain recalcitrant to biodegradation

Organic UV filters are important ingredients in many personal care products, including sunscreens. Evaluating the biodegradability of organic UV filters is key to estimate their recalcitrance and environmental fate and thus central to their overall environmental risk assessment. In order to further understand the degradation process, the aim was to investigate whether specific consortia could degrade certain UV filters. Several bacterial strains were isolated from enrichment cultures actively degrading octocrylene (OC), butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane (BM), homosalate (HS), and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate (ES) and were utilized to construct an in-house consortium. This synthetic consortium contained 27 bacterial strains and degraded OC, BM, HS, and ES 60–80% after 12 days, but not benzophenone-3 (BP3), methoxyphenyl triazine (BEMT), methylene bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol (MBBT), diethylhexyl butamido triazone (DBT), ethylhexyl triazone (EHT), or diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate (DHHB). Furthermore, several commercial microbial mixtures from Greencell were tested to assess their degradation activity toward the same organic UV filters. ES and HS were degraded by some of the commercial consortia, but to a lesser extent. The rest of the tested UV filters were not degraded by any of the commercial bacterial mixes. These results confirm that some organic UV filters are recalcitrant to biodegradation, while others are degraded by a specific set of microorganisms.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.