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Keywords:

  • Triclosan;
  • Antimicrobial agent;
  • Biodegradable;
  • Wastewater treatment

Abstract

The objective of this study was to investigate the fate and removal of triclosan (TCS; 5-chloro-2-[2,4-dichloro-phenoxy]-phenol), an antimicrobial agent used in a variety of household and personal-care products, in wastewater treatment systems. This objective was accomplished by monitoring the environmental concentrations of TCS, higher chlorinated derivatives of TCS (4,5-dichloro-2-[2,4-dichloro-phenoxy]-phenol [tetra II]; 5,6-dichloro-2-[2,4-dichloro-phenoxy]-phenol [tetra III]; and 4,5,6-trichloro-2-(2,4-dichloro-phenoxy)-phenol [penta]), and a potential biotransformation by-product of TCS (5-chloro-2-[2,4-dicholoro-phenoxy]-anisole [TCS-OMe]) during wastew ater treatment. These analytes were isolated from wastewater by using a C18 solid-phase extraction column and from sludge with super critical fluid CO2. Once the analytes were isolated, they were derivatized to form trimethylsi-lylethers before quantitation by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Recovery of TCS from laboratory-spiked wastewater samples ranged from 79 to 88% for influent, 36 to 87% for final effluent, and 70 to 109% for primary sludge. Field concentrations of TCS in influent wastewater ranged from 3.8 to 16.6 μg/L and concentrations for final effluent ranged from 0.2 to 2.7 μg/L. Removal of TCS by activated-sludge treatment was approximately 96%, whereas removal by trickling-filter treatment ranged from 58 to 86%. The higher chlorinated tetra-II, tetra-III, and penta closans were below quantitation in all of the final effluent samples, except for one sampling event. Digested sludge concentrations of TCS ranged from 0.5 to 15.6 μg/g (dry wt), where the lowest value was from an aerobic digestion process and the highest value was from an anaerobic digestion process. Analysis of these results suggests that TCS is readily biodegradable under aerobic conditions, but not under anaerobic conditions. The higher chlorinated closans were near or below the limit of quantitation in all of the digested sludge samples. Based on results from this study, the chlorinated analogues and biotransformation by-product of TCS are expected to be very low in receiving waters and sludge-amended soils.