Danish sewage sludge getting cleaner

NPE reduction effort has cut contamination by endocrine-disrupting chemicals reports EPA

Danish efforts to reduce usage of the industrial surfactants nonyl phenol ethoxylates (NPEs) appear to have paid off, the environmental protection agency (EPA) announced yesterday. Provisional figures show a halving of levels of the NPE breakdown product nonly phenol in sewage sludge in just one year, it said in a statement.

NPEs become endocrine disrupting as they degrade to nonyl phenol. Since 1995 their use has been progressively phased out in Denmark under a voluntary agreement made with industry. At the same time local authorities have vigorously sought out sources of the compounds, while the EPA has launched projects to develop alternatives, for example in industrial paints.

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