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Surfactants & "Green" Cleaners



We are in process of creating what we hope will be considered the "state
of the art" line of institutional cleaners.  Of course, there are many
opinions as to what products of this type may or may not contain (Green
Seal, Santa Monica, State of MA, etc.).  We have studied these
specification, and wish to pose the first of what may be many more
questions to you, this very knowledgeable community:

It is our understanding that any ethoxylated surfactant can contain
residual ethylene oxide or 1,4-dioxane as byproducts. These byproduct
come not from the nonyl phenol (in the case of nonyl phenol ethoxylate
[NPE] surfactants) or the alcohol (in the case of alcohol ethoxylate
[LAE] surfactants) but from the ethylene oxide that is used in either
type of surfactant. That would be true of either the nonyl phenol
ethoxylate or an alcohol ethoxylate. 

While one option is to bypass the use of either NPE or LAE surfactants
in favor of the sugar-derived surfactants we have run into performance
challenges with that strategy.  Therefore we would like to utilize a
small amount of either NPE or LAE.  Here is what we need to understand -


If we DO use some nonyl phenol, and therefore end up with traces of
ethylene oxide ( < 1 ppm) how would that be viewed by the regulatory
community, and specifically California Prop 65?  Is there any
distinction between an *ingredient* and a *contaminant*?  For example,
many types of polymers contain small residual monomer (styrene, vinyl
acetate, etc). Are these polymers all considered Prop 65 carcinogens
just like the monomers? We do not actually know. 

What we are struggling with (and therefore asking you all to offer an
opinion) is that there seems to be a qualitative difference between a
deliberately added ingredient (typically in % range) and a contaminant
(typically in ppm), especially if everything possible is done to reduce
levels as low as possible and provided the contaminant isn't one that is
highly persistent and bioaccumulates. 

Additionally there now appears to be evidence that nonyl phenol has been
indicted as an endocrine disrupter.  Have any of you reviewed that data?
Would anyone care to offer an opinion on the related biodegradability
and aquatic toxicity issues, (apparently studies show that effluent from
biodegraded NPE is more toxic to fish than effluent from biodegraded
LAE, even though before degradation the LAE is *more* toxic to fish.)

While we have produced some fine cleaners without using any NPE or LAE,
when it comes to industrial cleaning challenges, the naturally derived
surfactants simply do not seem to do an adequate job.  We are trying
hard to produce a line of products that exceed every adopted standard
and set the bar for products of this type.  We welcome all of your
comments.  TY!

Bill Green
Ecolink
bgreen@ecolink.com
http://www.ecolink.com
770-621-8240