Biological Oxygen Demand (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is one of the most common measures of pollutant organic material in water. BOD indicates the amount of putrescible organic matter present in water. Therefore, a low BOD is an indicator of good quality water, while a high BOD indicates polluted water. Dissolved oxygen (DO) is consumed by bacteria when large amounts of organic matter from sewage or other discharges are present in the water. DO is the actual amount of oxygen available in dissolved form in the water. When the DO drops below a certain level, the life forms in that water are unable to continue at a normal rate. The decrease in the oxygen supply in the water has a negative effect on the fish and other aquatic life. Fish kills and an invasion and growth of certain types of weeds can cause dramatic changes in a stream or other body of water. Energy is derived from the oxidation process. BOD specifies the strength of sewage. In sewage treatment, to say that the BOD has been reduced from 500 to 50 indicates that there has been a 90 percent reduction.
The BOD test serves an important function in stream pollution-control activities. It is a bioassay procedure that measures the amount of oxygen consumed by living organisms while they are utilizing the organic matter present in waste, under conditions similar in nature. The other traditional tests or indicators for water quality are chemical oxygen demand (COD) and pH.
For results of the BOD test to be accurate, much care must be taken in the actual process. For example, additional air cannot be introduced. Temperature must be 20°C, which is the usual temperature of bodies of water in nature. A five-day BOD test is used in environmental monitoring. This test is utilized as a means of stating what level of contamination from pollutants is entering a body of water. In other words, this test measures the oxygen requirements of the bacteria and other organisms as they feed upon and bring about the decomposition of organic matter. Time and temperature, as well as plant life in the water, will have an effect on the test. High BOD burdens or loads are added to wastewater by food processing plants, dairy plants, canneries, distilleries and similar operations, and they are discharged into streams and other bodies of water.
MARK G. ROBSON
(SEE ALSO: Ambient Water Quality; Dissolved Oxygen; Ecosystems; Water Quality)
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Wallace, R. (2000). Maxcy-Rosenau-Last Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Stamford, CT: Appleton & Lange.