Sucralose - a new persistent pollutant in the environment?
- Norway approved sucralose in June 2005, and the sweetener is now used in various low-calorie food and soft drinks and can also be obtained commercially as sugar substitute in food stores. The molecule is a tri-chlorinated disaccharide, which is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. The human excretion is not able to utilize the molecular energy, and more than 85 % is excreted unchanged while a minor fraction conjugates with glucuronic acid.
The environmental lifetime in Norwegian waters is expected to be 5-10 years. Sucralose has a low human toxicity and it does not bio-accumulate. However, the environmental persistence is of concern due to the lack of knowledge on how sucralose interact with the aquatic environment. In order to access the fate of sucralose and the possible impact on the aquatic environment NILU has developed a new method for screening of sucralose in environmental samples.
Sucralose has been found in all collected wastewater samples in the range from tens of ng/L to several μg/L. In seawater (Oslofjorden, Norway) close to the STP effluent several tens of ng/L is found. The sewage treatment plants are not able to remove sucralose from the wastewater, and the measured levels are in good agreement with estimates based on consumed sucralose. Due to the accumulation potential, the fate and impact of sucralose in aquatic environments needs to be explored in future research.
With the new methods for screening of sucralose in environmental samples NILU is, together with other research institutes, following up the research on sucralose.