Toxicity of the antimicrobial compound triclosan and formation of the metabolite methyl-triclosan in estuarine systems.

Research paper by M E ME Delorenzo, J M JM Keller, C D CD Arthur, M C MC Finnegan, H E HE Harper, V L VL Winder, D L DL Zdankiewicz

Indexed on: 25 Jan '08Published on: 25 Jan '08Published in: Environmental Toxicology


Triclosan, a commonly used antimicrobial compound, has been measured in aquatic systems worldwide. This study exposed marine species to triclosan to examine effects primarily on survival and to investigate the formation of the degradation product, methyl-triclosan, in the estuarine environment. Acute toxicity was assessed using the bacterium Vibrio fischeri, the phytoplankton species Dunaliella tertiolecta, and three life stages of the grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio. P. pugio larvae were more sensitive to triclosan than adult shrimp or embryos. Acute aqueous toxicity values (96 h LC50) were 305 microg/L for adult shrimp, 154 microg/L for larvae, and 651 microg/L for embryos. The presence of sediment decreased triclosan toxicity in adult shrimp (24 h LC50s were 620 microg/L with sediment, and 482 microg/L without sediment). The bacterium was more sensitive to triclosan than the grass shrimp, with a 15 min aqueous IC50 value of 53 microg/L and a 15 min spiked sediment IC50 value of 616 microg/kg. The phytoplankton species was the most sensitive species tested, with a 96 h EC50 value of 3.55 microg/L. Adult grass shrimp were found to accumulate methyl-triclosan after a 14-day exposure to 100 microg/L triclosan, indicating formation of this metabolite in a seawater environment and its potential to bioaccumulate in higher organisms. Triclosan was detected in limited surface water sampling of Charleston Harbor, SC at a maximum concentration of 0.001 microg/L, substantially lower than the determined toxicity values. These findings suggest triclosan poses low acute toxicity risk to estuarine organisms; however, the potential for chronic, sublethal, and metabolite effects should be investigated.