Industry slams Danish surfactant controls

Association accuses Denmark of politically motivated policy making, ignoring science

A recent Danish environmental protection agency (EPA) initiative to encourage consumers not to purchase detergents containing the surfactant LAS is "directly contradicted" by the most recent scientific assessment, manufacturers have claimed.

In a statement, the Washington DC-based Council for LAB/LAS Environmental Research (CLER) pointed to recently published results of an international scientific workshop held in Copenhagen in April. According to the association, these conclude that LAS in sewage sludge "does not pose a significant risk to the environment".

The council describes Denmark's move as a "political campaign," which it says is "a shot across the bow" of "anyone who believes that science should be the basis for regulatory action". Surfactant manufacturers have presented "sound scientific arguments," but "the science has had little impact on this political decision," the statement continues. CLER further claims that the Danish EPA has "disregarded studies from its own researchers".

LAS (linear alkylbenzene sulphonate) is the most widely used detergent surfactant in the world, according to the Council. In 1997, Denmark adopted internationally unique restrictions on the levels of LAS allowed in sewage sludge due to be spread on agricultural land. Under the regulation, permitted limits of LAS in sludge are to be halved in 2000. Last month, the Danish EPA went further, launching a public campaign aimed at encouraging consumers to buy detergents carrying the Nordic Swan ecolabel, which excludes products containing LAS (ENDS Daily 13 September).

Interviewed by ENDS Daily, Chris VandenHeuvel of CLER claimed that Denmark's restrictions on LAS were motivated by politics rather than science. He suggested that the EPA's real concern was not to reduce risks posed by LAS but to support the Nordic Swan ecolabelling scheme, which is run collectively by organisations in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

Follow Up:
CLER, tel: +1 202 737 0171. References: "LAS Risk Assessment for Sludge Amended Soils," available from CLER, whose web site includes several documents on Danish LAS policy.

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