Photocatalytic transformation of acesulfame: Transformation products identification and embryotoxicity study

Adela Jing Li, Oliver J. Schmitz, Susanne Stephan, Claudia Lenzen, Patrick Y K YUE, Kaibin Li, Huashou Li, Kelvin S Y LEUNG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Artificial sweeteners have been recognized as emerging contaminants due to their wide application, environmental persistence and ubiquitous occurrence. Among them, acesulfame has attracted much attention. After being discharged into the environment, acesulfame undergoes photolysis naturally. However, acesulfame photodegradation behavior and identity of its transformation products, critical to understanding acesulfame's environmental impact, have not been thoroughly investigated. The present study aimed to fill this knowledge gap by a laboratory simulation study in examining acesulfame transformation products and pathways under UV-C photolysis in the presence of TiO2. Photodegradation products of acesulfame were isolated and analyzed using the LC-IM-QTOF-MS coupled with LC Ion Trap MS in the MSn mode. Our results show six new transformation products that have not been previously identified. The molecular structures and transformation pathways were proposed. Further embryotoxicity tests showed that acesulfame transformation products at the low g L-1 level produced significant adverse effects in tail detachment, heart rate, hatching rate and survival rate during fish embryo development. The identification of additional transformation products with proposed transformation pathways of acesulfame, the increased toxicity of acesulfame after photolysis, and the fact that the accumulation of acesulfame transformation products is increasingly likely make acesulfame contamination even more important. Water resource control agencies need to consider legislation regarding acesulfame and other artificial sweeteners, while further studies are carried out, in order to protect the safety of this most vital resource.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

User-Defined Keywords

  • Acesulfame
  • Catalytic UV irradiation
  • Embryotoxicity
  • Emerging contaminant
  • Transformation pathway
  • Transformation product


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