Occurrence and removal of triclosan in Canadian wastewater systems

  • Paula Guerra
  • Steven Teslic
  • Ariba Shah
  • Amber Albert
  • Sarah B. Gewurtz
  • Shirley Anne SmythEmail author
Research Article


Triclosan (TCS) is an antimicrobial agent used in many personal care and cleaning products. It has been detected in most environmental compartments and the main entry pathway is wastewater effluents and biosolids. TCS was analyzed in 300 samples of raw influent, final effluent, and biosolids from 13 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) across Canada representing five types of typical wastewater treatment systems. TCS was almost always detected in influent (median 1480 ng/L), effluent (median 107 ng/L), and biosolids (median 8000 ng/g dry weight) samples. Removals of TCS from lagoons as well as secondary and advanced treatment facilities were significantly higher than primary treatment facilities (p < 0.001). TCS removal was strongly correlated with organic nitrogen removal. TCS removals at most lagoons and plants that use biological treatment were higher during summer compared with winter. However, no seasonal or temperature effects were observed at the two primary facilities, likely due to the absence of biological activity. Aerobically digested solids contained the lowest levels (median 555 ng/g) while anaerobically digested primary solids contained the highest levels of TCS (median 22,700 ng/g). The results of this large comprehensive study demonstrate that TCS is consistently present in wastewater and biosolids at relatively high concentrations and that removal from wastewater and levels in biosolids are strongly influenced by the wastewater and solids treatment types.


Triclosan Wastewater Sewage Pharmaceuticals Biosolids Sludge 



This study was undertaken in support of the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada risk assessment of triclosan. Thanks are due to the Canadian municipal WWTPs that granted access for sampling, and to Scott Dunlop, Sam Dith, Mehrzad Parsa, Scott Alexander, and Julian Torres for completion of field sampling.

Funding information

Funding was provided by the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_6338_MOESM1_ESM.docx (67 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paula Guerra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Steven Teslic
    • 1
  • Ariba Shah
    • 1
    • 3
  • Amber Albert
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sarah B. Gewurtz
    • 1
  • Shirley Anne Smyth
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Environment and Climate Change CanadaScience and Technology BranchBurlingtonCanada
  2. 2.Contract Pharmaceuticals LimitedMississaugaCanada
  3. 3.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  4. 4.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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