[Pharmwaste] Group seeks ban on detergent ingredient

DeBiasi,Deborah dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Tue Jun 5 12:17:26 EDT 2007


Group seeks ban on detergent ingredient By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated
Press Writer 
21 minutes ago

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - An environmental group asked the federal government
Tuesday to ban a class of toxic chemical compounds that are found in
industrial and household detergents and are believed to cause male fish
to develop female characteristics. 

The        Sierra Club also asked the        Environmental Protection
Agency to bar the use of these products in areas where wastewater
treatment plants aren't equipped to remove nonylphenol ethoxylates, or

Scientists have documented so-called intersex fish in U.S. waters in the
last decade, including the southern Great Lakes, the Potomac River
watershed and the Southern California coast. The reasons for the problem
aren't fully known, but researchers suspect it is rooted in wastewater
and farm runoff polluted with chemicals that are estrogenic, meaning
they stimulate estrogen production. NPEs are one of them.

NPEs are more tightly restricted in Canada and Europe than in the United
States, which issued water-quality limits for the key ingredient,
nonylphenol, or NP, in December 2005. Detergent manufacturers Procter &
Gamble and Unilever have voluntarily substituted other chemicals in
their products, and Wal-Mart is seeking to phase NPEs out of its stores
by rewarding companies that find alternatives.

"We think it's time for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take
action and restrict this chemical," said Ed Hopkins, director of the
Sierra Club's environmental quality program.

The EPA is developing a program, the Safer Detergents Stewardship
Initiative, that would recognize companies that voluntarily commit to
use safer substitutes for NPEs.

The petition, which also is signed by the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fisherman's Associations and the textile-and-hotel-workers union UNITE
HERE, also seeks to require labeling on all products containing NPEs and
more study of the compound, including testing for health effects on
industrial laundry workers.

The Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council, a Washington-based
trade group for major producers of nonylphenol and NPEs, said the
compounds have been thoroughly reviewed.

"NP, NPE and their biodegradation intermediates are among the most
extensively studied compounds in commerce today," Robert Fensterheim,
the trade group's executive director, said in an e-mailed response to
questions from The Associated Press. "Few compounds have the same degree
of test data and have received the same degree of scrutiny."

But Hopkins said the EPA didn't consider certain effects on fish when it
set water-quality limits.

"They set criteria based on conventional toxicity tests," Hopkins said.
"But those criteria don't take into account the fact that NP and NPEs
affect fish more subtly at far lower levels."

The petition also is signed by the Environmental Law & Policy Center,
the Washington Toxics Coalition and Physicians for Social


On the Net:

Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org

Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov

Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council: http://www.aperc.org

Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email:   dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!)
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219
PH:         804-698-4028
FAX:      804-698-4032

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