Biodegradability of Surfactants

  • D. R. Karsa
  • M. R. Porter

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. G. F. White, N. J. Russell
    Pages 28-64
  3. H. A. Painter
    Pages 65-117
  4. H. A. Painter
    Pages 118-133
  5. J. Steber, H. Berger
    Pages 134-182
  6. C. G. van Ginkel
    Pages 183-203
  7. T. Balson, M. S. B. Felix
    Pages 204-230
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 255-257

About this book


The awareness and development of 'biodegradable' surfactants pre-dates current pressures by the environmental movement by nearly three decades, wherein a responsible industry mutually agreed to replace 'hard', non-biodegradable com­ ponents of household detergents by 'soft', biodegradable alternatives, without course to legislation. The only requirement at that time was for surfactants used in detergents to exhibit a 'primary biodegradability' in excess of 80%; this referring to the disap­ pearance or removal from solution of the intact surface active material as de­ tected by specified analytical techniques. This proved useful, as observed environmental impacts of surfactants, e.g. visible foam on rivers, are associated with the intact molecule. Test methods for 'primary biodegradability' were eventually enshrined in EU legislation for nonionic surfactants (Directive 821242/EEC, amended 73/404IEEC) and for anionic surfactants (Directive 8212431EEC, amended 73/405IEEC). No approved test methods and resultant legislation have been developed for cationic and amphoteric surfactants to date. The environmental classification of chemical substances, which of course includes surfactants, and associated risk assessment utilises a second criterion ­ 'ready biodegradability'. This may be assessed by a number of methods which monitor oxygen uptake (BOD), carbon dioxide production or removal of dis­ solved organic carbon (DOC). Some surfactants which comply with the above Detergents Directive are borderline when it comes to 'ready biodegradability'.


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Editors and affiliations

  • D. R. Karsa
    • 1
  • M. R. Porter
    • 2
  1. 1.Akcros ChemicalsEccles ManchesterUK
  2. 2.Maurice R. Porter & AssociatesSully CardiffUK

Bibliographic information

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