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Fact Sheet: Nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates

Nonylphenol (NP) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE) are covered by Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation. The restrictions are based on a need to limit the use of these substances. Nonylphenol ethoxylates are degraded to nonylphenols, which are considered to be endocrine disrupters.

What does the legislation say?

According to REACH, NP and NPE shall not be placed on the market, or used, as substances or in mixtures in concentrations equal to or greater than 0,1% by weight for the following purposes:

  1. industrial and institutional cleaning except:
    • controlled closed dry cleaning systems where the washing liquid is recycled or incinerated,
    • cleaning systems with special treatment where the washing liquid is recycled or incinerated.
  2. domestic cleaning;
  3. textiles and leather processing except:
    • processing with no release into waste water,
    • systems with special treatment where the process water is pre-treated to remove the organic fraction completely prior to biological waste water treatment (degreasing of sheepskin);
  4. emulsifier in agricultural teat dips;
  5. metal working except: uses in controlled closed systems where the washing liquid is recycled or incinerated;
  6. manufacturing of pulp and paper;
  7. cosmetic products;
  8. other personal care products except: spermicides;
  9. co-formulants in pesticides and biocides. However national authorisations for pesticides or biocidal products containing nonylphenol ethoxylates as co-formulant, granted before 17 July 2003, shall not be affected by this restriction until their date of expiry.

Other legislation concerning NP and NPE

NP is on OSPAR's list of dangerous substances and the Water Framework Directive's list of priority hazardous substances. This means that it is requirement of the Directive that discharges, emissions and losses of the substance must cease no later than during 2021. In addition, the Executive Order on the use of waste for agricultural purposes establishes a threshold for the total of NPE and NP of 10 mg NP per kg dry matter in sludge which can be used e.g. as a fertiliser on agricultural land.

In addition to this regulation, NP/NPE is on the Danish Environmental Protection Agency's list of undesirable substances as a sub-group under alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates.

NP/NPE in textiles

As no limits have been set for the concentration of NP/NPE in imported textiles, these substances may occur in clothing and textile products imported from countries outside the EU where there are no limits on the use of NPE and NP in the manufacturing process.

Manufacturers, importers and users are responsible

Anyone who manufactures, imports or uses products that contain NP or NPE is responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations.

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency's Chemicals Inspection Service shall carry out supervision to ensure compliance with the regulations and shall ensure that unlawful circumstances are legitimised. This may mean that the product must be withdrawn from the Danish market or that the product must be made lawful in some other way. Contraventions of the regulations may be punished by a fine or imprisonment for up to two years.

More information

The restrictions on the marketing and use of NP and NPE are described in Annex XVII, no. 46 to the Reach Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006).

See the REACH Regulation: http://echa.europa.eu/legislation/reach_legislation_en.asp (at the Chemicals Agency's website)

See the Danish Environmental Protection Agency's list of undesirable substances (in Danish)

Read about the Water Framework Directive's list of priority substances (DG Environment)

See the Executive Order on the use of waste for agricultural purposes (the Sludge Executive Order, Executive Order No. 1650 of 13 December 2006) https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=13056 (at retsinformation.dk)