GUELPH -- A recent study by the University of Guelph confirmed that the chemical Triclosan, one of the most commonly used antimicrobials in personal health-care products, such as soaps, shampoos and other sanitation goods, does not pose a threat to the food chain or the environment. Triclosan is not water-soluble with 98 per cent of the product removed along with biosolids at sewage treatment plants.
"Farmers apply the biosolids to their crop land as a soil amendment to capture organic matter and nutrients so we are pleased to hear that the most commonly used antimicrobial does not affect the food or feed we grow, nor does it impact the surrounding environment," says Gord Green, President of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. "Biosolids are highly regulated so the recent research provides confidence for both the urban population and the farm community that it is a valuable resource -- a win-win for both parties."
The research was carried out under the supervision of Dr. Paul Sibley, at the School of Environmental Sciences, with graduate student René Sahba Shahmohamadloo conducting the research as part of his Master's thesis.
"This research was unique compared to similar research across North America in that it included four formulations of biosolids across treatments of corn, soybean and spring wheat. Plant emergence and growth were studied at various stages to determine if there was any uptake of triclosan. Arbuscular mycorrhizzal fungi was also evaluated as part of an environmental assessment," says Sibley.
The half-life for triclosan in soil is 80 days. In the scientific community when there is no known impact from a treatment, they refer to it as "de minimis risk" to crops. Ontario's strict regulations permit biosolids to be applied only once every five years on agricultural field crops. It is not permitted on land used for fruit or vegetable production.
The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) provided a graduate student scholarship to Shahmohamadloo to assist in this research. OSCIA has set up a special Soil Health Graduate Scholarship Fund in cooperation with the University of Guelph. The Soil Health Graduate Scholarship will contribute to research for improving our valuable soil resources and contribute to sustainable crop production.