Abstract The evolution of the degradation by-products of an acetaminophen (ACE) solution was monitored by HPLC-UV/MS and IC in parallel with its ecotoxicity (Vibrio fischeri 81.9%, Microtox® screening tests) during electro-Fenton (EF) oxidation performed on carbon felt. The aromatic compounds 2-hydroxy-4-(N-acetyl) aminophenol, 1,4-benzoquinone, benzaldehyde and benzoic acid were identified as toxic sub-products during the first stage of the electrochemical treatment, whereas aliphatic short-chain carboxylic acids (oxalic, maleic, oxamic, formic, acetic and fumaric acids) and inorganic ions (ammonium and nitrate) were well identified as non-toxic terminal sub-products. Electrogenerated hydroxyl radicals then converted the eco-toxic and bio-refractory property of initial ACE molecule (500 mL, 1 mM) and subsequent aromatic sub-products into non-toxic compounds after 2 h of EF treatment. The toxicity of every intermediate produced during the mineralization of ACE was quantified, and a relationship was established between the degradation pathway of ACE and the global toxicity evolution of the solution. After 8 h of treatment, a total organic carbon removal of 86.9% could be reached for 0.1 mM ACE at applied current of 500 mA with 0.2 mM of Fe2+ used as catalyst. Highlights Coupling ecotoxicity monitoring and chemical analysis during the electro-Fenton process. Quantifying the toxicity of every intermediate during the mineralization of ACE. Establishing relationship between degradation pathway and global toxicity of the solution.
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