Refractory pollutants, including lignin, tannic acid, chlortetracycline, and EDTA, were destroyed by an electrochemical oxidation method to evaluate the applicability of this method for industrial wastewater pretreatment. Operation parameters, such as supporting electrolyte, current density, and electrolyte concentration, have been investigated for their influences on COD removal efficiencies during electrolysis. In addition, gel permeation chromatography (GPC), Microtox test, and total organic halogen (TOX) analyses were performed to monitor the changes of organic characteristics of these refractory pollutants. Experimental results show that, among sulfate, nitrate, and chloride, chloride was the best supporting electrolyte, and during electrolysis, both COD and color removal efficiencies were improved by increasing current density and chloride concentration. From GPC analysis results, the electrochemical oxidation process readily destroys high-molecular-weight (HMW) organics. Microtox test results also show that the process can reduce the toxicity of these refractory organic compounds. In addition, TOX concentrations were found to increase at the beginning but then decline during the electrolysis. The above results suggest that the electrochemical oxidation process, which has good efficacy for detoxification and destruction of refractory pollutants, is a promising method for wastewater pretreatment.

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