Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 585–591

Triclosan—the forgotten priority substance?

  • Peter Carsten von der Ohe
  • Mechthild Schmitt-Jansen
  • Jaroslav Slobodnik
  • Werner Brack
Research Communication



Triclosan (TCS) is a multi-purpose biocide. Its wide use in personal care products (PCPs) fosters its dispersal in the aquatic environment. Despite enhanced awareness of both scientists and the public in the last decade with regard to fate and effects, TCS received little attention regarding its prioritisation as a candidate river basin-specific pollutant or even priority substance, due to scarce monitoring data.


Applying a new prioritisation methodology, the potential risk of TCS was assessed based on a refined hazard assessment and occurrences at 802 monitoring sites in the Elbe River basin.


The suggested acute-based predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) of 4.7 ng/l for the standard test species Selenastrum capricornutum was in good agreement with effect concentrations in algal communities and was exceeded in the Elbe River basin at 75% of the sites (limit of quantification of 5 ng/l). The 95th percentile of the maximum environmental concentrations at each site exceeded the PNEC by a factor of 12, indicating potential hazards for algal communities. Among 500 potential river basin-specific pollutants which were recently prioritised, triclosan ranks on position 6 of the most problematic substances, based on the Elbe River data alone.


Considering the worldwide application of PCPs containing triclosan, we expect that the TCS problem is not restricted to the Elbe River basin, even if monitoring data from other river basins are scarce. Thus, we suggest to include TCS into routine monitoring programmes and to consider it as an important candidate for prioritisation at the European scale.


Triclosan Prioritisation Priority substance River basin-specific pollutant Biocide 

Supplementary material

11356_2011_580_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.1 mb)
Table S1Overview of sampling sites with analysis of triclosan, the water body it represents, the years with analysis, the number of samples (n), the maximum concentration (max), the average concentration (average) and the detection frequency (DOC 1,089 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Carsten von der Ohe
    • 1
  • Mechthild Schmitt-Jansen
    • 2
  • Jaroslav Slobodnik
    • 3
  • Werner Brack
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Effect-Directed AnalysisHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department Bioanalytical EcotoxicologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Environmental InstituteKoŝSlovak Republic

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