The ecotoxicological effect of a surfactants, like any other chemical, is determined by its chemical structure. Information on the inherent properties of a chemical substance is obtained by conducting standard ecotoxicological testing as prescribed in the chemical legislation.
According to the REACH legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006) all chemical substances, including surfactants, need to be classified and labelled based on their inherent ecotoxicological properties. In the European Union, standard hazard communication is derived by a hazard assessment as stipulated by the CLP legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008). While the hazard assessment reflects the intrinsic properties of a chemical substance, the European REACH process is based on risk assessment that takes exposure information into account.
In principle the ecotoxicological risk assessment is based on a comparison of the Predicted Environmental Concentration [PEC] with the Predicted No Effect Concentration [PNEC]. According to EU legislation there is no risk, if the quotient of PEC divided by PNEC is smaller or equal to 1.
While the PNEC can be derived from standard ecotoxicological testing results by applying prescribed application factors that reflect the amount and the quality of data, the PEC is estimated based on data generated by systematic measurement programs (environmental monitoring ) or computer simulation (exposure and fate modelling).