Nonyl phenol and nonyl phenol ethoxylates (NP and NPEs) are surfactants used in a wide range of mainly industrial applications. NP, to which NPEs degrade in the environment, is toxic to aquatic life, while all the chemicals have endocrine-disrupting properties. A draft EU risk assessment has sparked controversy by recommending marketing restrictions (ENDS Daily 22 November 1999).
The SFT's decision to propose legislative controls on NP and NPEs is based on a recent survey on the chemicals' use by the national Institute of Technology (TI). This found that a 1996 commitment by Norwegian industry to phase them out by 2000 had not been achieved. Sectors concerned include makers of cleaning agents, paints and shellacs, glues, greases, and compounds used in car maintenance and in the paper-making and metallurgical industries.
According to TI, while usage in the cleaning agents industry was down 93% since 1997, reductions were lower in other areas, falling to 27% in the case of car maintenance products. In 1999, the SFT adds, 215 tonnes of NP and NPEs were used in Norway, and a similar quantity in products for export, figures which are expected to halve this year. The survey questioned 463 companies, of which 90% replied.
Correction: 22/11/00 In this article we reported that both nonyl phenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and nonyl phenol (NP) were surfactants. NPEs are, but NP is an industrial intermediate and stabiliser used in plastics. Concerns over hormone disrupting properties are focused on NP and less on NPEs, which, however, break down to NP in the environment.
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