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J Am Water Works Assoc. 2009;45(1):4-13.

Environmental Exposure of Aquatic and Terrestrial Biota to Triclosan and Triclocarban.

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  • 1Graduate Student, Center for Water and Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.


The synthetic biocides triclosan (5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol) and triclocarban (3,4,4'-trichlorocarbanilide) are routinely added to a wide array of antimicrobial personal care products and consumer articles. Both compounds can persist in the environment and exhibit toxicity toward a number of biological receptors. Recent reports of toxicological effects in wildlife, human cell cultures, and laboratory animals have heightened the interest in the occurrence of these biocide and related toxic effects. The present study aimed to summarize published environmental concentrations of biocides and contrast them with toxicity threshold values of susceptible organisms. Environmental occurrences and toxicity threshold values span more than six orders of magnitude in concentration. The highest biocide levels, measured in the mid parts-per-million range, were determined to occur in aquatic sediments and in municipal biosolids destined for land application. Crustacea and algae were identified as the most sensitive species, susceptible to adverse effects from biocide exposures in the parts-per-trillion range. An overlap of environmental concentrations and toxicity threshold values was noted for these more sensitive organisms, suggesting potential adverse ecological effects in aquatic environments. Affirmative evidence for this is lacking, however, since studies examining environmental occurrences of biocides vis-à-vis the health and diversity of aquatic species have not yet been conducted.

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