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Biology Articles » Hydrobiology » New Test Speeds Triclosan Detection In Water
January 24, 2009 — A new test for detecting
triclosan should expedite environmental monitoring of the antibacterial
agent in rivers, wells and other water sources, according to studies by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating scientists.
Triclosan's widespread use in household products—from hand soaps and
toothpaste to socks and pet shampoos—has led to debate over the
chemical's impact on the environment, wildlife, human health and
antimicrobial resistance. Existing methods of gathering information on
triclosan and its metabolites in the environment are costly to use,
require dedicated lab space and necessitate specialized training,
according Weilin Shelver.
Shelver, a chemist in the ARS Animal Metabolism-Agricultural
Chemicals Research Unit in Fargo, N.D., developed the new triclosan
test in collaboration with Jennifer Church, Lisa Kamp and Fernando
Rubio, a research team at Abraxis, Inc., of Warminster, Pa.
The new test, called a magnetic particle enzyme immunoassay, isn't
intended to replace the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS)
methods now used, but rather complement them, especially for routine
monitoring of tricolosan in a large number of water samples.
The team evaluated the test by using it to detect triclosan and its
derivative, methyl-triclosan, in river water, tap water and sewage
samples from three municipal plants in the Red River Basin area shared
by North Dakota and Minnesota. River and tap water analyses revealed
triclosan and methyl-triclosan levels below 20 parts per trillion
(ppt), indicating little contamination of the rivers that supplied the
The team's wastewater analysis showed that, before treatment,
triclosan levels sometimes exceeded 3,000 ppt, but after treatment,
those levels fell below 500 ppt. According to Shelver, the results
confirmed other reports indicating that sewage plants' purification
steps removed much, but not all, of the triclosan from water before it
is discharged into the environment.
In addition to correlating well with GC-MS analysis during the
study's validation phase, the new test proved sensitive enough to
distinguish triclosan from chemically similar contaminants.
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