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Long-term effects of the antibacterial agent triclosan on marine periphyton communities

Journal article
Authors Karl Martin Eriksson
Carl-Henrik Johansson
Viktor Fihlman
Alexander Grehn
Kemal Sanli
Mats X. Andersson
Hans Blanck
Åsa Arrhenius
Triranta Sircar
Thomas Backhaus
Published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Volume 34
Issue 9
Pages 2067-2077
ISSN 0730-7268
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 2067-2077
Language en
Keywords Microbial toxicology, Personal care products, Mode of action, Pollution-induced community tolerance (PICT); Biofilm; Irgasan
Subject categories Environmental toxicology


Triclosan is a widely used antibacterial agent that has become a ubiquitous contaminant in freshwater, estuary, and marine environments. Concerns about potential adverse effects of triclosan have been described in several recent risk assessments. Its effects on freshwater microbial communities have been well studied, but studies addressing effects on marine microbial communities are scarce. In the present study, the authors describe short- and long-term effects of triclosan on marine periphyton (microbial biofilm) communities. Short-term effects on photosynthesis were estimated after 60min to 210min of exposure. Long-term effects on photosynthesis, chlorophyll a fluorescence, pigment content, community tolerance, and bacterial carbon utilization were studied after exposing periphyton for 17d in flow-through microcosms to 0.316nM to 10000nM triclosan. Results from the short-term studies show that triclosan is toxic to periphyton photosynthesis. Half maximal effective concentration (EC50) values of 1080nM and 3000nM were estimated using (CO2)-C-14-incorporation and pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) fluorescence measurements, respectively. After long-term triclosan exposure in flow-through microcosms, photosynthesis estimated using PAM fluorometry was not inhibited by triclosan concentrations up to 1000nM but instead increased with increasing triclosan concentration. Similarly, at exposure concentrations of 31.6nM and higher, triclosan caused an increase in photosynthetic pigments. At 316nM triclosan, the pigment amounts were increased by a factor of 1.4 to 1.9 compared with the control level. Pollution-induced community tolerance was observed for algae and cyanobacteria at 100nM triclosan and higher. Despite the widespread use of triclosan as an antibacterial agent, the compound did not have any effects on bacterial carbon utilization after long-term exposure.

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