WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an action plan late Wednesday afternoon to address the 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).
Meanwhile, the EPA says it supports a voluntary phaseout of industrial laundry detergents containing NPE by 2014 pledged by the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA).
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. Both have been found in various environmental sampling; NP is associated with reproductive and developmental effects in rodents.
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 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.