Two major components of insensitive munition formulations, nitroguanidine (NQ) and 3-nitro-1,2,4-triazol-5-one (NTO), are highly water soluble and therefore likely to photo-transform while in solution in the environment. The ecotoxicities of NQ and NTO solutions are known to increase with UV exposure, but a detailed accounting of aqueous degradation rates, products, and pathways under different exposure wavelengths is currently lacking. Here, we irradiated aqueous solutions of NQ and NTO over a 32-h period at three ultraviolet wavelengths (254 nm, 300 nm, and 350 nm) and analyzed their degradation rates and transformation products. NQ was completely degraded by 30 min at 254 nm and by 4 h at 300 nm, but it was only 10% degraded after 32 h at 350 nm. Mass recoveries of NQ and its transformation products were ≥80% for all three wavelengths, and consisted of large amounts of guanidine, nitrate, and nitrite, and smaller amounts of cyanamide, cyanoguanidine, urea, and ammonium. NTO degradation was greatest at 300 nm with 3% remaining after 32 h, followed by 254 nm (7% remaining) and 350 nm (20% remaining). Mass recoveries of NTO and its transformation products were high for the first 8 h but decreased to 22–48% by 32 h, with the major aqueous products identified as ammonium, nitrate, nitrite, and a urazole intermediate. Environmental half-lives of NQ and NTO in pure water were estimated as 4 and 6 days, respectively. We propose photo-degradation pathways for NQ and NTO supported by observed and quantified degradation products and changes in solution pH.
- Aqueous NQ yielded guanidine, cyanamide, urea, cyanoguanidine, nitrate, and nitrite.
- Nitrosoguanidine suspected as an intermediate in NQ photo-transformation.
- NTO produced mineralized gases, nitrate and nitrite, and transient urazole.
- NQ and NTO estimated to have surface environmental half-lives on the order of days.