Long-term effects of the antibacterial agent triclosan on marine periphyton communities
Journal article, 2015

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.

Mode of action

Personal care products

Microbial toxicology

Pollution-induced community tolerance (PICT)




Martin Eriksson

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology, Maritime Environmental Sciences

Carl-Henrik Johansson

University of Gothenburg

Viktor Fihlman

University of Gothenburg

Alexander Grehn

University of Gothenburg

Kemal Sanli

University of Gothenburg

Mats X. Andersson

University of Gothenburg

Hans Blanck

University of Gothenburg

Åsa Arrhenius

University of Gothenburg

Triranta Sircar

University of Gothenburg

Thomas Backhaus

University of Gothenburg

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

0730-7268 (ISSN)

Vol. 34 9 2067-2077

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences



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