Co-occurrence of triclocarban and triclosan in U.S. water resources

Rolf U. Halden, Daniel H. Paull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

462 Scopus citations


Triclocarban (TCC) and triclosan (TCS) are antimicrobial additives in personal care products. Whereas TCS has been studied extensively, the environmental fate of TCC remains largely unknown. To address this data gap, we performed quantitative structure-activity relationship (USAR) analyses that suggested a propensity of TCC to persist in various environmental compartments with predicted half-lives ranging from 0.75 days in air to 540 days in sediment. Moreover, concentrations of both antimicrobials were measured in 42 environmental samples from the Greater Baltimore region using a combination of solid-phase extraction, liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, and isotope dilution. The co-occurrence of TCC and TCS was observed, owing to similar properties, usage, disposal, and environmental half-lives. A linear empirical correlation (R2 = 0.9882) fit the log-log-transformed data from diverse aquatic media and spanned 5 orders of magnitude in concentration. Occurrences of TCC predicted for 85 U.S. streams were statistically indistinguishable from experimental regional data (α < 0.05). Annual loading of antimicrobials to water resources probably is dominated by activated sludge treatment plants (39-67%), followed by trickling filters (31-54%) and combined and sanitary sewer overflows (2-7% and <0.2%, respectively). Study results suggest that TCC is a previously unrecognized contaminant of U.S. water resources nationwide, likely ranking in the top 10 in occurrence rate and in the top 20 in maximum concentration among 96 organic pollutants considered. The magnitude and frequency of TCC contamination (regional, 6750 ng/L, 68%; predicted nationwide for 1999-2000, 1150 ng/L, 60%) were markedly higher than non-peer-reviewed numbers (240 ng/L, 30%, U.S.) currently used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for evaluating TCC's ecological and human health risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1420-1426
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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