The chemical oxygen demand (COD) is a measure of water and wastewater quality. The COD test is often used to monitor water treatment plant efficiency. This test is based on the fact that a strong oxidizing agent, under acidic conditions, can fully oxidize almost any organic compound to carbon dioxide. The COD is the amount of oxygen consumed to chemically oxidize organic water contaminants to inorganic end products.
The COD is often measured using a strong oxidant (e.g. potassium dichromate, potassium iodate, potassium permanganate) under acidic conditions. A known excess amount of the oxidant is added to the sample. Once oxidation is complete, the concentration of organics in the sample is calculated by measuring the amount of oxidant remaining in the solution. This is usually done by titration, using an indicator solution. COD is expressed in mg/L, which indicates the mass of oxygen consumed per liter of solution.
The COD test only requires 2-3 hours, while the Biochemical (or Biological) Oxygen Demand (BOD) test requires 5 days. It measures all organic contaminants, including those that are not biodegradable. There is a relationship between BOD and COD for each specific sample, but it must be established empirically. COD test results can then be used to estimate the BOD of a given sample. Unlike for the BOD test, toxic compounds (such as heavy metals and cyanides) in the samples to be analyzed do not have an effect on the oxidants used in the COD test. Therefore, the COD test can be used to measure the strength of wastes that are too toxic for the BOD test. Some organic molecules (e.g., benzene, pyridine) are relatively resistant to dichromate oxidation and may give a falsely low COD.
You may find more information related to COD in the following web sites:
ISO 1989. ISO 6060: Water quality - Determination of the chemical oxygen demand. Geneva, Switzerland, International Organization of Standardization
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