The chemical decomposition of p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid, a phenolic pollutant present in agro-industrial plant effluents, has been investigated by means of the Fenton's reaction and the photoassisted Fenton's reaction, the so-called photo-Fenton system. The degradation levels achieved have been compared to those obtained by applying other Advanced Oxidation Processes, such as the combination UV/H2O2. The optimum pH to carry out the decomposition of this organic compound by either Fenton or photo-Fenton systems was found to be pH = 3. The presence of buffers such as phosphate impedes these processes due to the formation of ferric complexes.
A reaction mechanism, which allows calculating the contribution of the radical reaction to the global process, has been proposed. According to this mechanism, the dominant way of degradation of p-hydroxyphenylacetic acid is through its reaction with the OH radicals originated in the photolysis of H2O2 and, especially, in the Fenton's reaction.