Consideration of exposure and species sensitivity of triclosan in the freshwater environment



Triclosan (TCS) is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial used in consumer products including toothpaste and hand soap. After being used, TCS is washed or rinsed off and residuals that are not biodegraded or otherwise removed during wastewater treatment can enter the aquatic environment in wastewater effluents and sludges. The environmental exposure and toxicity of TCS has been the subject of various scientific and regulatory discussions in recent years. There have been a number of publications in the past 5 y reporting toxicity, fate and transport, and in-stream monitoring data as well as predictions from aquatic risk assessments. State-of-the-science probabilistic exposure models, including Geography-referenced Regional Exposure Assessment Tool for European Rivers (GREAT-ER) for European surface waters and Pharmaceutical Assessment and Transport Evalutation (PhATE™) for US surface waters, have been used to predict in-stream concentrations (PECs). These models take into account spatial and temporal variability in river flows and wastewater emissions based on empirically derived estimates of chemical removal in wastewater treatment and in receiving waters. These model simulations (based on realistic use levels of TCS) have been validated with river monitoring data in areas known to be receiving high wastewater loads. The results suggest that 90th percentile (low flow) TCS concentrations are less than 200 ng/L for the Aire-Calder catchment in the United Kingdom and between 250 ng/L (with in-stream removal) and 850 ng/L (without in-stream removal) for a range of US surface waters. To better identify the aquatic risk of TCS, a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) was constructed based on chronic toxicity values, either no observed effect concentrations (NOECs) or various percentile adverse effect concentrations (EC10–25 values) for 14 aquatic species including fish, invertebrates, macrophytes, and algae. The SSD approach is believed to represent a more realistic threshold of effect than a predicted no effect concentration (PNEC) based on the data from the single most sensitive species tested. The log-logistic SSD was used to estimate a PNEC, based on an HC5,50 (the concentration estimated to affect the survival, reproduction and/or growth of 5% of species with a 50% confidence interval). The PNEC for TCS was 1,550 ng/L. Comparing the SSD-based PNEC with the PECs derived from GREATER and PhATE modeling to simulate in-river conditions in Europe and the United States, the PEC to PNEC ratios are less than unity suggesting risks to pelagic species are low even under the highest likely exposures which would occur immediately downstream of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharge points. In-stream sorption, biodegradation, and photo-degradation will further reduce pelagic exposures of TCS. Monitoring data in Europe and the United States corroborate the modeled PEC estimates and reductions in TCS concentrations with distance downstream of WWTP discharges. Environmental metabolites, bioaccumulation, biochemical responses including endocrine-related effects, and community level effects are far less well studied for this chemical but are addressed in the discussion. The aquatic risk assessment for TCS should be refined as additional information becomes available.