Aquatic photochemistry of chlorinated triclosan derivatives: Potential source of polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins

Jeffrey M. Buth, Matthew Grandbois, Peter J. Vikesland, Kristopher McNeill, William A. Arnold

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Triclosan (TCS; 5-chloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol), a common antimicrobial agent, may react with residual chlorine in tap water during transport to wastewater treatment plants or during chlorine disinfection of wastewater, generating chlorinated TCS derivatives (CTDs): 4,5-dichloro-2-(2,4- dichlorophenoxy)phenol (4-Cl-TCS), 5,6-dichloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol (6-Cl-TCS), and 4,5,6-trichloro-2-(2,4-dichlorophenoxy)phenol (4,6-Cl-TCS). The photochemistry of CTDs was investigated due to the potential formation of polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (PCDD) photoproducts. Photolysis rates were highly dependent upon CTD speciation, because the phenolate species degraded 44 to 586 times faster than the phenol forms. Photolysis quantum yield values for TCS, 4-Cl-TCS, 6-Cl-TCS, and 4,6-Cl-TCS of 0.39, 0.07, 0.29, and 0.05, respectively, were determined for the phenolate species. Photolyses performed in Mississippi River and Lake Josephine (USA) waters gave similar quantum yields as buffered, pure water at the same pH, indicating that indirect photolysis processes involving photosensitization of dissolved organic matter are not competitive with direct photolysis. The photochemical conversion of the three CTDs to PCDDs under solar irradiation was confirmed in natural and buffered, pure water at yields of 0.5 to 2.5%. The CTD-derived PCDDs possess higher toxicities than 2,8-dichlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, a previously identified photoproduct of TCS, due to their higher chlorine substitution in the lateral positions. The load of TCS- and CTD-derived PCDDs to United States surface waters is estimated to be between 46 and 92 g toxicity equivalent units per year. Other identified photoproducts of each CTD were 2,4-dichlorophenol and reductive dechlorination products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2555-2563
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Chlorinated triclosan derivatives
  • Dioxin
  • Photochemistry
  • Triclosan


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