A common ingredient used in detergents and cleaning products poses a low ecological risk to waterways, according to a new study from the American Cleaning Institute (ACI).
“Environmental risk assessment of polycarboxylate polymers used in cleaning products in the United States,” published in the journal Chemosphere, was conducted by ACI, Integral Consulting, Inc., and The Procter and Gamble Company to examine the effects of these ingredients on the health of waterways.
Water-soluble polymers like polycarboxylate polymers provide multiple functions and offer unique performance benefits when included in cleaning products, the ACI noted in a release announcing the study results. Laundry products and automatic dishwashing products contain polycarboxylate polymers to improve performance by preventing the redeposition of soil, and in recent years these polymers have been replacing phosphates as they were phased out of products.
Acrylic acid homopolymers and acrylic acid-maleic acid copolymers were evaluated using historical ecotoxicity data available from the past three decades. An environmental exposure assessment based on the occurrence of these ingredients in cleaning products and market sales data for cleaning products sold in the U.S. was also included in the evaluation.
Researchers found the ecotoxicity of polycarboxylate polymers to be generally low, with the PEC-PNEC (predicted environmental concentration – predicted no effect concentration) ratios <1 for all conditions evaluated, indicating a negligible risk. The study concluded that the potential environmental risks associated with their use in cleaning products are low even when applying very conservative assumptions.
Study author Kathleen Stanton, associate vice president, technical & international affairs for ACI, commented, “The alignment of findings from this screening level risk assessment with assessments by authoritative bodies from around the world supports the conclusion that current uses of polycarboxylate polymers in cleaning products do not pose a significant risk to the aquatic environment.”