Nonylphenol Ethoxylates, commonly referred to as NPE’s, are mixtures of nonionic surfactants used in a variety of different cleaning products today. These man-made chemicals can be toxic to wildlife if ingested and have specifically been linked to abnormal conditions in organisms that live in the water. Recognizing the implications that NPE’s have for our planet, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently launched new EPA regulations that will manage the potential risks caused by nonylphenol ethoxylates. While the new regulatory actions are primarily voluntary, the goal of these new regulations is to eventually phase-out the use of NPE’s all together.
The main effects of NPE’s are on the planet and water-dwelling living organisms. Because NPE’s are primarily used in down-the-drain cleaning products, the harmful synthetic chemicals are persistent in the aquatic environment. Because these chemicals are harmful to organisms residing in the sea, they can also cause harm to people consuming seafood. Studies show that NPE’s have been found in water tests conducted in saltwater, groundwater, freshwater, and soil. It is not uncommon to find trace elements of NPE’s in breast milk, urine, and blood as well. This proves the fact that cleaning products containing these chemicals are harmful to both the environment and the population.
Eliminating and phasing out the use of NPEs will have a positive impact on the environment. Manufacturers of cleaning supplies can use substitutes to sport the “cleangredient” logo. “Cleangredient” substitutes include APE’s (alkylphenol ethoxylates) that are commonly used for commercial manufacturing processes similar to the cleaning industry. Alcohol ethoxylates and glucose-based carbohydrate derivatives are also highly-effective and are approved substitutes. These alternatives will break down less toxic chemicals that are safer for the environment and the end user. These new EPA regulations show that the nation is one step closer to sustaining the safety of the planet.