Entry into the marine environment
Until the mid-1970s, biphenyl was used extensively
in the manufacture of polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs). The subsequent banning of PCBs meant that
biphenyl's primary use was as a dye carrier in the
textile industry. Barry and Wilkinson (1994) reviewed
the data on biphenyl, but were unable to locate
data on amounts used in the UK. However, in 1976
in the US, approximately 50% of the biphenyl manufactured
was used as a dye carrier (Weaver 1979). The US
EPA (1976) estimated that the market for biphenyl
as a dye carrier would remain static or even increase
by 1985. Other uses of biphenyl include:
- as a heat transfer agent, a market that was
expected to remain static throughout the 1980s;
- as an impregnate in citrus fruit wrappers where
it acts as a mild fungicide, a shrinking market
given the increased efficiency of fruit transport;
in the manufacture of plasticisers; and
- in optical brighteners (Weaver 1979).
Biphenyl is also a by-product of several important
industrial processes, notably in: the manufacture
of high octane motor and aviation fuels; catalytic
cracking to form lighter gasoline components; and
as a high boiling point component of coal tar, a
component that is often used in the manufacture
Little information is available on the volume of
biphenyl produced annually. EC production was reported
as >10,000 tonnes/year in 1985 (SRI 1985) and
appeared to be confined to two manufacturers in
Germany. No production was reported in the UK.
Biphenyl is a component of creosote, a substance
that has widespread applications as a weather proofing
agent for wood. Much of the biphenyl present in
the creosote may, potentially, be leached to the
aquatic environment or volatilised to the atmosphere.
The other main threat to the aquatic environment
is likely to be from by biphenyl being leached from
landfills. For example, biphenyl may be present
as a by-product in the wastewater produced during
the manufacture of naphthalene feedstocks and hydrocarbon
Biphenyl's range of uses suggests that release
to the aquatic environment from both point and diffuse
sources will be of primary concern. However, few
data exist to quantify biphenyl's presence therein.
Recorded levels in the marine
Barry and Wilkinson (1994) found few data on the
presence of biphenyl in the environment, partly
because biphenyl is often present in complex organic
matrices that are difficult to resolve and quantify.
The authors found no reported concentrations of
biphenyl in the UK environment, although its presence
in the River Thames was reported in a European Council
document (CEC 1979).
Monitoring data from the National Rivers Authority
and the National Monitoring Programme Survey of
the Quality of UK Coastal Waters are presented in
Appendix D. However, biphenyl was not monitored
in either survey.
At present, there is insufficient information to
compare expected environmental concentrations with
toxicity data or environmental standards.
Fate and behaviour in the marine
The US EPA (1976) suggests that any biphenyl released
to the aquatic environment will be rapidly removed
(mainly by volatilisation). Mackay (1975) investigated
the evaporation of low-solubility contaminants from
water bodies to the atmosphere. The half-life of
biphenyl in water 1 m deep was estimated to be 7.5
hours. It was reported that, for depths greater
than 1 m, the half-life would be expected to
increase. However, based on its low solubility (0.37x10-1
g cm-3) and log Kow of 3.9, it is probable
that some adsorption to suspended solids or sediments
Effects on the marine environment
Toxicity to marine organisms
An exhaustive literature review on the toxicity
of biphenyl to marine organisms has not been carried
out for the purposes of this profile. The information
provided in this section is taken from existing
review documents (Barry and Wilkinson 1994). The
most sensitive groups of organisms have been identified.
Barry and Wilkinson (1994) reviewed data on the
toxicity of biphenyl to saltwater organisms. Limited
data were available, although the authors concluded
that sensitivity was likely to be similar to that
observed for freshwater organisms, with crustaceans
and fish exhibiting greatest sensitivity.
Abernethy (1986) reported that the 24 hour LC50
for Artemia sp. was 4 mg l-1using
nominal concentrations in a closed system. Donkin
(1989) investigated the effect of biphenyl on the
rate of feeding of the mussel Mytilus edulis
obtained from an intertidal zone. The effect was
expressed in terms of the biphenyl concentration
in water and tissue required to reduce the feeding
rate by 50%, the WEC50 and TEC50. The reported WEC50
and TEC50 were 0.30 mg l-1
and 15.6 mg kg-1 respectively.
Dill et al. (1982) reported a 96 hour
LC50 for biphenyl on sheepshead minnow Cyprinodon
variegatus of 4.6 mg l-1
using nominal concentrations in open containers.
No data could be located for sediment dwelling organisms.
Barry and Wilkinson (1994) found no data on the
bioaccumulation of biphenyl in the marine environment.
However, they did report a study by Neff (1976)
who investigated the accumulation and release of
petroleum derived aromatic hydrocarbons by marine
animals. An oyster Crassostrea virginica
was shown to contain a concentration of 0.3 ppm
of biphenyl in its tissue after being exposed to
a fuel oil (1% oil in water) for 8 hours under flow
through conditions. After removal of the oyster
to uncontaminated seawater, the concentration of
biphenyl in the tissue had fallen to 0.1 ppm after
5 days and to background amounts after 28 days.
The experiment was repeated with a clam Rangia
cuneta. After 8 hours exposure to the fuel oil
contaminated seawater, the clam was observed to
contain a concentration of 0.1 ppm of biphenyl in
its tissue. This was removed in less than 3 hours
in uncontaminated seawater suggesting that bioaccumulation
is unlikely to be a problem.
The US EPA (1976) suggested that biphenyl was a
hydrophobic substance and had a moderate tendency
to accumulate in sediment and biota.
Potential effects on interest
features of European marine sites
Potential effects include:
- toxicity of biphenyl to invertebrates and fish
at concentrations above the EQS of 25 µg
l-1 (annual average) in the water column.