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Technical Guidance on Alkylphenol Ethoxylates

March 2017

What is it?

Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEO) are non ionic surfactants used as detergents in the textile industry. Examples of APEO are nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEO) and octylphenol ethoxylates (OPEO).

Potential health hazards

  • If wash off let to the environment, it may cause eutrophication in river beds.
  • NPEO is termed to be dangerous to aquatic life.
  • It is non-biodegradable.
  • If NPEOs and OPEOs are released to the environment, they can be degraded back to NPs and OPs, which are toxic to aquatic life, persistent in the environment and can be bioaccumulated in body tissue. They are similar to natural estrogen hormones and can disrupt sexual development in some organisms, e.g. causing feminization of fish.

Commonly found in

APEOs are present as residues in textiles and leather. 90% of the produced APEO are in fact NPEO.

Related legislation (non-exhaustive)

  • European Union: REACH Annex XVII, entry 46a (will apply from 3rd February 2021)
  • Taiwan: CNS 15290 Safety of Textiles

Maximum limit (non-exhaustive)

  • NPEO: 0.01% by weight for textile articles expected to be washed in water during their normal lifecycle.
  • NP and NPEO: 1000 mg/kg (children's clothing)

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