This paper brings together over 250 published and unpublished studies on the environmental properties, fate and toxicity of the four major, high volume surfactant classes and relevant feedstocks. The surfactants and feedstocks covered include alcohol sulfate (AS), alcohol ethoxysulfate (AES), linear alklybenzene sulfonate (LAS), alcohol ethoxylate (AE), and long chain alcohol (LCOH). These chemicals are used in a wide range of personal care and cleaning products. To date, this is the most comprehensive report on these substance's chemical structures, use and volume information, physical/chemical properties, environmental fate properties such as biodegradation and sorption, monitoring studies through sewers, wastewater treatment plants and eventual release to the environment, aquatic and sediment toxicity, and bioaccumulation information. These data are used to illustrate the process for conducting both prospective and retrospective risk assessments for large volume chemicals and categories of chemicals with wide dispersive use. Prospective risk assessments of AS, AES, AE, LAS and LCOH demonstrate that these substances, although used in very high volume and widely released to the aquatic environment, have no adverse impact on the aquatic or sediment environments at current levels of use. The retrospective risk assessments of these same substances have clearly demonstrated that the conclusions of the prospective risk assessments are valid and confirm that these substances do not pose a risk to the aquatic or sediment environments. This paper also highlights the many years of research that the surfactant and cleaning products industry has supported, as part of their environmental sustainability commitment, to improve environmental tools, approaches, and develop innovative methods appropriate to address environmental properties of personal care and cleaning product chemicals, many of which have become approved international standard methods.
Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 2014, Vol 44, Issue 17, p. 1893-1993