Photochemical fate of medetomidine in coastal and marine environments

Yi Cai, Jennifer N. Apell, Nicholas C. Pflug, Kristopher McNeill, Ulla E. Bollmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Medetomidine has been authorized in ship hull paints as an antifouling biocide under the biocidal product regulation in Europe since 2016. Its release into marine systems causes concerns over persistence and toxicity. However, the environmental fate of medetomidine has not been fully investigated. In this study, the photodegradation of medetomidine under natural sunlight conditions was investigated using collected coastal and sea waters. In addition, the phototransformation of medetomidine with reactive species (i.e., singlet oxygen, excited triplet state organic matter, and hydroxyl radicals) under UVA light was examined. Photoproducts were isolated by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), identified by a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and time-of-flight mass spectrometry (qTOF), and reaction mechanisms were proposed. The results show that medetomidine is a neutral base (pKa of protonated form = 7.2) that leads to two different protonation states in the aquatic environment. Photodegradation of neutral medetomidine was dominated by reaction with singlet oxygen, while protonated medetomidine was relatively photostable. The contribution of reactive species to the overall photodegradation of neutral medetomidine was calculated to provide an assessment of phototransformation of medetomidine. The half-live of medetomidine was < 1.5 days in natural waters (pHcoastal = 8.3; pHsea = 8.1) under sunlit near-surface conditions, suggesting that it is not persistent in the aquatic environment. Because medetomidine has a relatively short half-life in sunlit aquatic ecosystems, a number of products, such as 2-(2,3-dimethylphenyl)propanamide, can be formed by photochemical reactions of medetomidine, with unknown consequences for marine and coastal waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116791
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • Antifouling biocides
  • Cycloaddition
  • Indirect photolysis
  • Photoproducts
  • Singlet oxygen
  • Medetomidine
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical/analysis
  • Photolysis
  • Ecosystem
  • Europe
  • Kinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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