Risk Management for Nonylphenol and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates
What is Nonyphenol?
NPEs are nonionic surfactants that are used in a wide variety of industrial applications and consumer products. Many of these, such as laundry detergents, are “down-the-drain” applications. Some others, such as dust-control agents and deicers, lead to direct release to the environment. NPEs, though less toxic and persistent than NP, are also highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and, in the environment, degrade into NP.
Why is EPA concerned?
NP and NPEs are produced in large volumes, with uses that lead to widespread release to the aquatic environment.
NP is persistent in the aquatic environment, moderately bioaccumulative, and extremely toxic to aquatic organisms. NP has also been shown to exhibit estrogenic properties in in vitro and in vivo assays. NP’s main use is in the manufacture of NPEs.
NP and NPEs have been found in environmental samples taken from freshwater, saltwater, groundwater, sediment, soil and aquatic biota. NP has also been detected in human breast milk, blood, and urine and is associated with reproductive and developmental effects in rodents.
What action is EPA taking?
- September 25, 2014 – EPA proposed a Significant New Use Rule to require Agency review before a manufacturer starts or resumes use of 15 nonylphenols (NPs) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). This SNUR, when finalized, will provide EPA the opportunity to review and evaluate any intended new or resumed uses of these chemicals and, if necessary, take action to limit those uses. The public comment period for this proposal closed on January 15, 2015.
- May 9, 2012 -- Through its Safer Choice program, EPA released a final alternatives assessment identifying eight safer alternatives to nonylphenol ethoxylates.
Read about the ongoing voluntary phase-out of NPEs in industrial laundry detergents as part of the Safer Detergents Stewardship Initiative (SDSI). The Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) agreed to expedite a phase-out of NPEs in industrial laundry detergents (PDF). The phase out would end the use of NPEs in industrial laundry detergents by 2013 for liquid detergents and 2014 for powder detergents.