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Last updated: November 10, 2018

What Does Biodegradation Mean?

Biodegradation is a natural process during which fungi, bacteria or other biological organisms break down materials. After full biodegradation, materials are broken down into their component molecules. The term is often applied to the topics of waste management, biomedicine and the remediation of the natural environment.

Safeopedia Explains Biodegradation

The biodegradation of waste products and chemical waste is of importance in waste and risk management. For example, manufacturers of glycol ethers used in solvents, paints and cleaners must specify the percentage of biodegradation that can be achieved over time. By knowing the biodegradation qualities of toxic or harmful substances, risk assessors and waste managers are able to determine the correct strategies and safety measures applicable to the disposal of chemicals and materials. Biodegradation may also be manipulated as it was in the case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in which nitrogen, phosphorous and iron were used in order to speed up the biodegradation of oil by micro-organisms.


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