EPA Takes Action on Industrial Detergents

Bruce Beggs |

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an action plan last Wednesday to address potential health risks of nonylphenol (NP)/nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) used in industrial laundry detergents. The plan identifies a range of actions the agency is considering under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
NP is persistent in the aquatic environment and extremely toxic to aquatic organisms, EPA says. NPEs—nonionic surfactants used in laundry detergents—are also highly toxic to aquatic organisms and degrade into NP. NP is associated with reproductive and developmental effects in rodents, and both substances have been found in environmental sampling, EPA says.
EPA intends to:

  • Initiate rulemaking to propose a significant new use rule (SNUR);
  • Consider initiating rulemaking to add NP and NPEs to the “Concern List” of chemicals that present or may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment; and
  • Initiate rulemaking to add NP and NPEs to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which would require facilities to report releases of the chemicals to the environment.

Speaking for approximately 98% of U.S. industrial laundry facilities, including major industrial detergent manufacturers, TRSA has committed to voluntarily phase out the use of industrial liquid detergents containing NPEs by Dec. 31, 2013, and industrial powder detergents by the end of 2014. It has agreed to provide year-end progress reports to EPA in 2011 and 2012.
“While EPA intends to address the potential risks associated with these chemicals, we are pleased that the industrial laundry industry has decided to not wait for regulatory action to be completed by the agency, and is voluntarily taking steps now to phase out the use of NPEs,” says Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
EPA says it supports the voluntary phaseout, and intends to encourage any industrial launderers that are not TRSA members to also join this effort.
The phaseout will be coordinated with EPA’s DfE Safer Detergents Initiative (SDSI), which the agency says has had great success in obtaining public commitment by consumer-product manufacturers to end the use of NPEs in household laundry detergents.
For more information, download the EPA’s Nonylphenol (NP) and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE) Action Plan here. Download TRSA’s letter committing to phase out use of industrial laundry detergents containing NPE here.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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