Switzerland will consider banning all uses of the detergent surfactant nonyl phenol ethoxylate unless current negotiations with industry lead to a voluntary phase-out, according to the Swiss environment agency. The surfactant is part of the family of alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs), which can mimic the effects of hormones in humans and wildlife. Its major use, in domestic laundry detergents, was banned in Switzerland in 1986. Other European countries have also restricted the use of nonyl phenol ethoxylates in certain uses, but Switzerland is thought to be the first country to envisage an outright ban. Levels of the surfactant in Swiss rivers have fallen markedly since its use in household detergents was prohibited. But the environment agency remains worried, and is particularly concerned that there might be a link with an unexplained 50% drop in the populations of some freshwater fish. The agency has revealed its move on nonyl phenol ethoxylates alongside publication of a new survey of research on potential hormone-disrupting chemicals prepared jointly with the Swiss federal institute of science and technology (EAWAG). The report stresses the need for more research to elucidate possible causal relationships between synthetic chemicals and hormone disruption.
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