Cleanzine: your weekly cleaning and hygiene industry newsletter 16th March 2023 Issue no. 1056
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EU model overestimates environmental exposure of key surfactant, claims study
A European Union model used to predict the environmental exposure of a major detergent ingredient is overly conservative and "significantly overestimates" effluent concentrations, new research shows.
A study co-authored by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), ‘Comparing the European Union System for the Evaluation of Substances (EUSES) environmental exposure calculations with monitoring data for alkyl sulphate surfactants’, is now available in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe.
The article was supported by ERASM, a European organisation whose research improves the basis for, and the knowledge about, the risk assessment of the impact of detergent-based surfactants on the environment and on human health.
The European surfactant and detergent industry initiated a project to conduct an EUSES-based environmental exposure assessment for the total volume of alkyl sulfate (AS) surfactants, and to ascertain the reliability of the EUSES model to predict realistic environmental concentrations of AS. Alkyl sulfates are found in detergents and certain personal care products.
Verification of the EUSES environmental concentration prediction was carried out by benchmarking them against environmental monitoring data. Recently published data from the US, adjusted to the EU frame conditions, were used for the assessment, since only historical data from the mid 1990's are available for the EU.
"These results indicate the very conservative nature of the EUSES model for these materials," says Kathleen Stanton, a co-author on the research and ACI Associate vice president, technical & international affairs. "While predicted concentrations can be informative, these concentrations should be corroborated by other means, including measuring environmental concentrations."
The research notes that alkyl sulfates "are readily and rapidly biodegradable substances”.
"It's important that processes evaluating key chemistries like alkyl sulfates are using realistic, real-world estimates or measurements to ensure proper environmental regulation governing wastewater effluents," adds Kathleen Stanton.
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