Due to their surface active properties virtually all (concentrated) surfactants demonstrate irritating or damaging effects to the eyes. Even though eye contact with surfactants in the context of their use in laundry or home care products only occurs accidentally, it is important to adequately determine their eye irritating/damaging properties and the mixtures thereof, and to accurately communicate the corresponding hazard to consumers as stipulated by chemical legislation .
While REACH (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 ) requires all manufacturers, importers, or downstream users to assess the hazards and potential risks presented by chemical substances (e.g. surfactants) based on scientific data the communication of chemical hazards is regulated under CLP (Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008). According to CLP, the vast majority of surfactants are classified as 'Eye Damage Category 1', and mixtures (i.e. detergent products) containing > 3 % of such a surfactants are to be classified accordingly if no test data for the mixture is available.
While classification of surfactants as such is triggered by the extent or reversibility of the observed effect, the eye irritation potential of mixtures is influenced by additional product ingredients as well. Since the use of animal testing for the classification and labelling of mixtures is restricted by EU legislation, determination of adverse effects on eye is predominantly based on in itro data. However, current in vitro test methods distinguish products that are not to be classified; and products that are classified as Category 1(serious eye damage). Since these methods do not allow direct identification of products classified as Category 2 (eye irritant), they may result in misleading over-classification of products.