December 1995


New Study from the Netherlands

The Dutch Environmental Ministry (VROM) has concluded that the environmental risk of LAS and other currently used laundry and cleaning product ingredients is “low” and “acceptable in every respect.” This conclusion is based on joint risk assessments conducted by VROM and cleaning products: linear alkylbenzene sulfonate (LAS), alcohol ethoxylates, alcohol ether sulfates and soap. The conclusions were announced by Margaretha de Boer, the Minister of VROM, in a letter to the Dutch Parliament.

The risk assessments were initiated in 1991 as part of a plan to evaluate all components of laundry and cleaning products, beginning with the largest volume ingredients. The four surfactants chosen for the first round of assessments represent over 80% of the total volume of surfactants used in laundry and cleaning products.

The first step in the risk assessments was a comprehensive inventory of all the aquatic toxicity data on the four surfactants, including data and comments submitted by CLER member companies. From a review of this data, the Maximum Tolerable Risk (MTR,) or maximum safe level, was determined for each surfactant in surface waters. Next, monitoring studies conducted at seven treatment plants showed that the four surfactants were almost completely removed (99.1-99.8%) in sewage treatment. Based on these results, the expected concentrations in surface waters immediately downstream of sewage the treatment plants in The Netherlands are a factor of 100 lower than the MTR levels. Since the predicted environmental concentrations are lower than the maximum safe levels, the surfactants are judged to be safe.

Because surfactants are the highest volume ingredients in laundry and cleaning products, VROM has decided that there is no need to conduct an extensive assessment of the remaining ingredients. (December 1995)