Why be concerned?

Supplier progress

Potential impacts

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Substance list

Legislation / REACH


Related Links

Wash with care

Environmental assessment of laundry detergents



The aquatic ecotoxicity of a substance can be measured by many different methods. Basically some aquatic organisms are exposed to the substance in a number of concentrations over a period of time. For example, one is done with fish, exposing the fish to the substance over 96 hours and determining an LC50-value – the concentration where 50% of the fish dies (LC=lethal concentration).

Alternatively one can determine sub-lethal effects. An example might be testing for immobility of Daphnias (small crustaceans) ,where the concentration that destroys mobility of 50% of the organisms can be determined in a similar way. In this case the effects value is called an EC50-value (EC=effect concentration).

The ecotoxicity testing methods are mainly suited for determining the effects on organisms in the aquatic environment. A lot of the testing of chemicals is based on such methods even though the majority of water borne chemicals are discharged via waste water treatment plants. As it can be understood from the above description of bio-degradability, the properties of a mixture of substances will be changed quite significantly by passing through a treatment plant. However, the eco-toxicity testing is relevant to determine the ‘inherent properties’ of the substances and as such it plays an important role in the classification of chemicals.

For the role of ecotoxicity in the EU system for classification of dangerous chemicals please refer to the description of the system by following the link.


Explanatory notes on environmental  properties of chemicals:





- an explanatory note:

Info on specific substances

The Detergent Ingredient Database (the DID-list) provides information on aerobic and anaerobic degradation of the most commonly used substances.

The HERA project ‘Human and Environment Risk Assessment on ingredients of household cleaning products’, includes a valuable section with in depth assessment of specific detergent ingredients.