The anti-bacterial agent is commonly used in a number of consumer products, including soap, toothpaste, mouthwash and cosmetics because it offers long-lasting protection against bacteria, mould and yeast.

It is estimated that up to 90 tonnes of the agent goes into consumer and household products in the UK every year, and according to the EA, a significant body of scientific research shows that Triclosan is finding its way into the environment.

Head of air and chemicals policy at the EA, Steve Killeen, pointed out that Scientific evidence suggests that most Triclosan is effectively removed by the sewage treatment process, but that quantities of the chemical still remained in the effluent, making their way back to rivers and seas.

“We do not know if Triclosan poses any environmental problems, but we do want better information on its levels in rivers so that we can make sound, scientifically based judgements on whether there are risks to the environment or wildlife, and if there are, how significant those risks might be,” he stated.

The EA has therefore called on the chemical industry to: better characterise levels of Triclosan and its transformation products in UK rivers to quantify risks; provide further information on the toxicity of Triclosan and its breakdown products on sediment-dwelling and aquatic organisms; and to further investigate levels of the chemical and its by-products entering the environment via sewage sludge, as well as the impact of this on the environment.

“We have set out a programme of work we want the chemical industry to undertake,” Mr Killeen said. “We are confident that Triclosan manufacturers recognise our objectives and that they will cooperate with us, taking forward the necessary research.”

By Jane Kettle

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