Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health measured levels of an antibacterial hand soap ingredient, triclocarban, as it passed through a wastewater treatment facility. They determined that approximately 75 percent of the ingredient washed down the drain by consumers persists during wastewater treatment and accumulates in municipal sludge, which later is used as fertilizer for crops. Their findings are presented in a study appearing in the online and print editions of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. More studies are underway to determine if triclocarban, which is toxic when ingested, can migrate from sludge into foods, thereby potentially posing a human health risk.
"The observed persistence of triclocarban is remarkable," said lead author, Jochen Heidler, a PhD candidate in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. "In the plant, the chemical contained in sludge underwent biological treatment for an average period of almost three weeks, yet very little degradation took place."
Senior author Rolf U. Halden, PhD, assistant professor and co-founder of the Johns Hopkins Center for Water and Health, said, "Triclocarban does not break down easily even under the intense measures applied during wastewater treatment. Triclocarban is leading a peculiar double life. Following its intended use as a topical antiseptic, we are effectively and inadvertently using it as an agricultural pesticide that is neither regulated nor monitored."
Tim Parsons | EurekAlert!
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