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Chemical Regulation

Reporting required for U.S. releases of 13 nonylphenol ethoxylates

Group of surfactants linked to toxicity in aquatic organisms

by Cheryl Hogue
June 8, 2018

Structure of 4-nonylphenol diethoxylate.

Makers and users of a group of widely used nonionic surfactants found in some cleaning products and paints will have to report U.S. releases of these chemicals to EPA each year.

The requirement applies to 13 nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), says an EPA regulation released June 7. Short-chain NPEs, which consist of a nonylphenol with one or two ethoxylene oxide groups attached, are highly toxic to water-dwelling organisms, according to EPA. Longer-chain NPEs aren’t as hazardous, but they can degrade in the environment to short-chain NPEs and to nonylphenols, which are also highly toxic to aquatic life and suspected of disrupting hormones.

The regulation directs companies to report their annual quantities of NPE releases. That information will be made public under the nation’s right-to-know law starting in 2020.

“We are taking an important step to provide communities with additional information about toxic chemicals being released to the environment,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says.

NPEs are used in industrial applications and consumer products as wetting agents, emulsifiers, surfactants, stabilizers, dispersants, and defoamers.

EPA has not curtailed the use of NPEs, but retailers are forging head. Walmart and Target have told their suppliers to eliminate NPEs, among a handful of other substances, from household and personal care products they sell.


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