Triclosan: Environmental exposure, toxicity and mechanisms of action
Triclosan [5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol; TCS] is a broad spectrum antibacterial agent used in personal care, veterinary, industrial and household products. TCS is commonly detected in aquatic ecosystems, as it is only partially removed during the wastewater treatment process. Sorption, biodegradation and photolytic degradation mitigate the availability of TCS to aquatic biota; however the by-products such as methyltriclosan and other chlorinated phenols may be more resistant to degradation and have higher toxicity than the parent compound. The continuous exposure of aquatic organisms to TCS, coupled with its bioaccumulation potential, have led to detectable levels of the antimicrobial in a number of aquatic species. TCS has been also detected in breast milk, urine and plasma, with levels of TCS in the blood correlating with consumer use patterns of the antimicrobial. Mammalian systemic toxicity studies indicate that TCS is neither acutely toxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, nor a developmental toxicant. Recently, however, concern has been raised over TCS's potential for endocrine disruption, as the antimicrobial has been shown to disrupt thyroid hormone homeostasis and possibly the reproductive axis. Moreover, there is strong evidence that aquatic species such as algae, invertebrates and certain types of fish are much more sensitive to TCS than mammals. TCS is highly toxic to algae and exerts reproductive and developmental effects in some fish. The potential for endocrine disruption and antibiotic cross-resistance highlights the importance of the judicious use of TCS, whereby the use of TCS should be limited to applications where it has been shown to be effective.