WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the final report on alternatives to nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) through the Design for the Environment (DfE) Alternatives Assessment Program. NPEs are widely used surfactants with a range of industrial applications and are commonly found in consumer products, such as laundry detergents. When released into the environment, they can be persistent and highly toxic to aquatic organisms. The report identifies eight safer alternatives to NPE that meet EPA’s criteria for safer surfactants.
“I applaud the product manufacturers who have stopped using NPEs and switched to safer alternatives and the chemical manufacturers who have made the safer alternatives available,” said Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). “This report shows the important strides that have been made to identify safer alternatives and the progress being made to phase out NPEs in detergents and reduce its use in other applications. By developing rigorous technical assessments through public participation, EPA can help successfully encourage the transition to safer chemicals.”
The report provides information on the availability of safer alternatives, DfE’s hazard evaluation method for surfactants, and the progress being made in adopting safer surfactants. Using rigorous hazard-based criteria, EPA evaluated hundreds of chemicals for their biodegradability and their potential effects to aquatic organisms.
DfE’s Alternatives Assessment Program helps industries choose safer chemicals and offers a basis for informed decision-making by providing a detailed comparison of the potential human health and environmental effects of chemical alternatives. To date, the DfE program has labeled more than 2,700 safer products, including detergents that contain only safer surfactants and other chemicals. All companies participating in the DfE Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative have eliminated NPE from their product lines to meet DfE criteria.