US detergent ingredients show low environmental risk: ACI study

07 August 2013 00:00  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US detergent ingredients were proven to show low environmental risk, according to a comprehensive field research study conducted by the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), sources said on Tuesday.

“The major disposal route of alcohol ethoxylates [or ethoxylated alcohols] is down-the-drain through sewage systems and municipal wastewater treatment plants into receiving surface waters,” said Kathleen Stanton, director of technical and regulatory affairs for the ACI.

“Because these are down-the-drain disposal routes for the detergents, the fate and effects of the residuals in treated sewage effluent is of interest to industry and regulators alike,” Stanton added.

According to Stanton, the chemical backbone of detergents is aliphatic alcohols, commonly called fatty alcohols.

Once ethylene oxide (EO) is added, the resulting molecule is referred to as a surfactant (surface-acting-agent).

Chemicals other than EO may be applied to a fatty alcohol to create different types of surfactants.

However, this study concentrated on the ethoxylated surfactants with the goal to determine the environmental impact of the fatty alcohol backbone of the detergent. 

Natural (vegetable-oil based) and synthetic (natural gas/ethylene-based) fatty alcohols were both tested during in the scope of the study.

“There were no environmental impact differences found between the natural and synthetic alcohols,” Stanton said.

Surfactants are a wide variety of products that are commonly referred to as detergents. Detergents have numerous applications in home care end uses, as well as similarly varied detergent-range products that find significant use in the industrial sector.

Kathleen Stanton, a co-author of the peer-reviewed research paper, said the work was done as a stewardship effort to offer ongoing support of environmental objectives.

By: Judith Taylor
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