Formaldehyde toxicity during acetoclastic methanogenesis exerted a dual character: It was in part reversible and in part irreversible. Toxicity was only reversible at very low formaldehyde concentration. The degree of irreversible toxicity was proportionally related to the initial sludge concentration, but was independent of the initial specific acetoclastic activity. Formaldehyde conversion seemed to be dependent on the concentration of the various trophic groups present in the anaerobic granular sludge used. Hence biomass diversity may play an important role in the outcome of toxicity studies and may furthermore contribute to the explanation of the controversies with respect to toxicity values reported in literature.

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