Processing Magazine

Detergent ingredients present low environmental risk, study claims

August 27, 2013

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New research by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, has shown that some of the most common detergent ingredients pose very low pollution risk to rivers and waterways in the United States.

The report, titled "Occurrence and Risk Screening of Alcohol Ethoxylate Surfactants in Three US River Sediments Associated with Wastewater Treatment Plants," stated that alcohol ethoxylates, which are the backbone of U.S. household and personal care manufacturing, presented a low environmental risk for the national water resources.

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One of the authors of the report, Kathleen Stanton, ACI director of technical and regulatory affairs, explained that the key ingredients of detergents, fatty alcohols, occur naturally in the environment and can be found in animal waste, run off and plant matter for example. This fact was one of the main reasons for conducting the study, she said, as it was necessary to distinguish between the natural fatty alcohols in waterways and the artificially added amounts from detergent ingredients.

The team of researchers carried out a risk assessment in three separate streams, measuring the exposure and predicted risk. Those were later compared to the local habitat and plant life. Results proved that alcohol ethoxylates and fatty acids associated with detergent use put the environment at low risk, Stanton concluded.