Pepper Plants Pay the Price of Personal Care Products

By Emily Taketa

The persistent popularity of personal care products containing antimicrobial substances such as TCC, or Triclocarban, contributes to the rise in antimicrobial substances in the environment. Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently indicated TCC as prohibited in soaps, the environmental levels of these substances are still increasing as reflected by their higher concentration in irrigation wastewater. These substances are shown to potentially cause negative impacts on human health, possibly acting as an endocrine disruptor. 

As reported in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Dawn Reinhold and colleagues, tracked the levels of TCC in various parts of the pepper plants by recording the levels of radioactive carbon indicator metabolized. The levels of C14, or radioactive carbon, revealed that the plant did metabolize the antibiotic and in varying concentrations within the plant. Specifically, the scientists found that the jalapeno peppers had relatively lower levels of the harmful substances in the fruit since the TCC was converted to other molecules. So, the levels of TCC, or similar substances, in the environment should be evaluated, since these substances can be eventually consumed by humans through plants.

These findings urge further investigation on the specific health effects of these antimicrobial substances since they are so prevalent in everyday products and, therefore, the environment. Since the plants in this experiment were shown to absorb significant amounts of the harmful substances like TCC in the wastewater, it is crucial to learn how the subsequent consumption of these substances through plants affects individuals.


American Chemical Society. "Pepper plants sop up personal care product antibiotics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 April 2018.