Fate and effects

According to the REACH regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006) an eco-toxicological risk assessment for the marine environment needs to be included for those chemicals that require a Chemical Safety Assessment [CSA]. The amount of exposure data that can be obtained for the marine environment are limited and difficult to obtain especially for coastal and estuarine parts of the marine environment. Existing data have been collected within the ERASM MonitoringBase surfactants project. Eco-toxicity testing data are available although on a limited scale compared with data generated for the freshwater environment. Therefore, according to the Technical Guidance Document of the EU, fresh water data can be used for extrapolation or within a weight of evidence approach.

In addition to their direct impact on the marine environment, surfactants have been linked to damage of the coastal vegetation. For several decades a decline of coastal vegetation in parts of the Mediterranean coast, Australia, as well as Japan has been observed especially close to densely populated areas with poor waste water treatment or direct discharges. According to an unproven hypothesis, surfactants enriched in sea water aerosol droplets are the cause for the damage observed.