Recent Developments

Recent decisions by regulatory organizations and governmental bodies confirm that LAS is environmentally safe and completely acceptable for use in laundry detergents and cleaning products.

European Detergent Ecolabel

  • The European Union (EU), under Council Regulation (EEC) 880/92, is developing criteria for ecolabel awards for various product groups. The criteria will apply across the EU to provide consumers with guidance on products with reduced environmental impact.(1)
  • The ecolabel criteria for laundry detergents were approved by the EU ecolabel Representative Committee and recently published.(2)
  • The adequacy of the environmental information on LAS is recognized by its inclusion in the Detergent Ingredient Database list.
  • Laundry detergents based on LAS will be able to meet all ecolabel criteria and will be eligible to receive the ecolabel award.

Dutch Environmental Safety Assessment

  • The Dutch Environmental Ministry (VROM), in cooperation with the Dutch Institute of Human Health and Environmental Protection (RIVM) and the Dutch Detergent Association (NVZ), has conducted an extensive review of the environ mental safety of laundry detergent ingredients.
  • The first phase of this safety assessment focuses on major detergent actives, including LAS.
  • A real world monitoring study, conducted in the Netherlands as part of VROM’s safety assessment, demonstrated that more than 99% of the LAS is removed during sewage treatment. This result confirms the very high removal rates for LAS observed in treatment plants in Europe and the U.S.(3-6)
  • Based on the results of the monitoring study, the predicted environmental concentration for LAS in rivers and waterways downstream of Dutch sewage treatment plants is very low, only 4 to 6 parts per billion.
  • The extensive environmental safety data on LAS and a conservative statistical extrapolation method were used to predict the highest level that would be safe for aquatic organisms, the “Maximum Permissible Concentration” (MPC).
  • LAS was determined to be safe at levels as high as 250 parts per billion (MPC value), much higher than the predicted environmental concentration of 4 to 6 parts per billion. At current usage levels, LAS poses no risk to the Dutch en vironment.
  • This rigorous and very conservative risk assessment process confirms the conclusion of earlier assessments that LAS use in laundry detergents and cleaning products is safe for the environment.(3,7-9)
  • The complete results of this safety assessment are available in a report released by the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection and the Dutch Soap Association.(10)

OECD Safety Assessment on LAB

  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is conducting a safety assessment on large production volume chemicals.
  • Linear alkylbenzene (LAB), the material used to produce LAS, was chosen to be among the first group of chemicals to be examined. LAB was included in this group because of the large amount of health and environmental safety informati on available on it.
  • LAS is in the second group of chemicals to be examined since more LAB is transported worldwide than LAS.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for the LAB safety assessment, has compiled the LAB information into a computerized document called the Screening Information Data Set (SIDS) dossier.
  • The LAB dossier was reviewed at the February, 1995, OECD meeting. LAB was classified as “category 1”, meaning that no additional testing is needed and that LAB as currently used is safe.
  • The LAB dossier has now been finalized based on comments made at the OECD meeting.

UK Department of the Environment Report

  • The Technical Committee on Detergents and the Environment was formed by the United Kingdom Department of the Environment to review the effects of detergents and cleaning products on the environment, to identify potential pro blems and to issue reports of their findings. The committee is composed of experts from the British government, academia and industry.
  • The latest report, dated December 1994, contains an assessment of the safety of LAS. The assessment is based on an extensive review of the research and published literature on LAS, including the proceedings of several international symposia.(11)
  • The review included an examination of the relevance of anaerobic biodegradability for LAS: “LAS levels in river sediments receiving untreated sewage or poorly treated effluent have been reported as ranging up to 500 mg/kg. How ever, oxygen levels have not been simultaneously measured and it seems likely that real-world conditions are more commonly oxygen-limited rather than strictly anaerobic. Such conditions slow the rate but do not prevent LAS mineralization.”
  • The report concludes that “LAS is readily biodegradable” and its widespread use in consumer products poses no hazard to human health or the environment. The report further notes that “LAS has remained the major surfactant throughout the world because of its effectiveness, versatility, cost/performance ratio and environmental safety.”


1. Official Journal of the European Communitie. No. L 99. April 11, 1992.

2. Official Journal of the European Communitiee. No. L217/14. September 13, 1995.

3. McAvoy, D.C., W.S. Eckhoff and R.A. Rapaport. “Fate of Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate in the Environment.” Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 12, 977-987 (1993).

4. Cavalli, L., A. Gellera and A. Landone. “LAS Removal and Biodegradation in a Wastewater Treatment Plant.” Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 12, 1777-1788 (1993).

5. Snchez Leal, J., M.T. Garca, R. Toms, J. Ferrer and C. Bengoechea. “Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate Removal.” Tenside Surf. Det. 31, 253-256 (1994).

6. Waters, J. and T.C.J. Feijtel. “AIS/CESIO Environmental Surfactant Monitoring Program: Outcome of Five National Pilot Studies on Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate (LAS).” Chemosphere 30, 1939-1956 (1995).

7. Kimerle, R.A. “Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecotoxicology of Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate.” Tenside Surf. Det. 26, 169-176 (1989).

8. Lewis, M.A. “Chronic and Sublethal Toxicities of Surfactants to Aquatic Animals: A Review and Risk Assessment.” Wat. Res. 25, 101-113 (1991).

9. Rapaport, R.A., R.J. Larson, D.C. McAvoy, A.M. Nielsen and M. Trehy. “The Fate of Commercial LAS in the Environment.” 3rd CESIO International Surfactants Congress & Exhibition — A World Market, Proceedings, Section E, 78-88 ( London, June 1-5, 1992).

10. Feijtel, T.C.J. and E.J. van de Plassche. “Environmental Risk Characterization of 4 Major Surfactants Used in the Netherlands.” National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection and Dutch Soap Association (The Neth erlands, September 1995) Report no. 679101 025.

11. Otter, R.J. et al. “Second Report of the Technical Committee on Detergents and the Environment.” Department of the Environment (London, December, 1994) pp. 4-5, 53-60.

Last updated on May 1996


Comments are closed