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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances



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Electron Acceptor

Electron Acceptor - "A chemical entity that accepts electrons transferred to it from another compound. It is an oxidizing agent that, by virtue of its accepting electrons, is itself reduced in the process." - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012

Electron Acceptor - "Compound that receives electrons (and therefore is reduced) in the energy-producing oxidation-reduction reactions that are essential for the growth of microorganisms and bioremediation. Common electron acceptors in bioremediation are oxygen, nitrate, sulfate, and iron." - National Research Council, 1993

Electron Acceptor - "Inorganic compounds that can accept electrons and can allow complete oxidation of organic substrates are called electron acceptors. The most common electron acceptors used by microorganisms in natural environments are oxygen, nitrate, ferric iron, sulfate, and carbon dioxide." - Chapelle, 2001

Electron Acceptor - "Microorganisms gain energy by catalyzing energy-producing chemical reactions that involve breaking chemical bonds and transferring electrons away from the contaminant. The type of chemical reaction is called an oxidation-reduction reaction: the organic contaminant is oxidized, the technical term for losing electrons; correspondingly, the chemical that gains the electron is reduced. The contaminant is called the electron donor, while the electron recipient is called the electron acceptor. The energy gained from these electron transfers is then 'invested,' along with some electrons and carbon from the contaminant, to produce more cells." - National Research Council, 1993

Related Definitions

Electron Donor


Aerobic Biodegradation


Anaerobic Biodegradation




Natural Attenuation

USGS Information on Biodegradation

Related Headlines

Other Information on Biodegradation


Chapelle, F.H., 2001, Ground-water microbiology and geochemistry (2 ed.): New York, New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 477 p.

National Research Council, 1993, In situ bioremediation--When does it work?: Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 224 p.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012, Glossary of technical terms: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, access date June 2, 2014.

Disclaimer: The definitions on this page are provided for information purposes only, and do not indicate endorment by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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