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Safer Choice

Partnership to Evaluate Alternatives to Nonylphenol Ethoxylates

About the assessment

Nonylphenol ethoxylates alternatives assessment logo


On May 9, 2012, EPA released a final Alternatives Assessment for Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) identifying eight safer alternatives to NPEs.

Why did EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) program conduct an alternatives assessment?

NPEs are widely used in industry as surfactants and wetting agents for detergents, cleaners, carriers, and other commercial uses. When released into the environment, NPEs, and NPE degradates (chemicals to which NPEs break down), can degrade slowly and be highly toxic to aquatic organisms.

The NPE alternative assessment, which profiles NPEs and structurally related octylphenol ethoxylates, was released as part of EPA's Nonylphenol (NP) and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE) Action Plan. The action plan was issued in August 2010 to address concerns about potential ecological and other effects from the manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, and uses of NP and NPEs. Read about alternative assessments.

The Agency anticipates that the NPE Alternatives Assessment will help industries that use NPEs—such as manufacturers of cleaners and detergents, textiles, pulp and paper, and pest control agents for agriculture—find safer substitutes.


DfE requested comments on the draft Alternatives for Nonylphenol Ethoxylates from September 28 to November 30, 2011, and summarized and addressed the comments in a Response to Comments document. Most commenters, who represented a spectrum of interests, found the assessment very helpful and agreed with the DfE approach to comparing alternatives. The commenters felt that the assessment will serve as a useful resource for those working on the manufacture of safer surfactants and cleaning products, as well as on advancement in the use of safer chemicals and products in general. Read the original comments.

DfE's Work to Identify Safer Surfactants Used in the Assessment

The Alternatives Assessment highlights and builds on the Safer Choice program's extensive work on surfactants and alternatives to NPEs, which include:

DfE routinely applies its safer surfactant criteria in evaluating products that are candidates to carry the Safer Choice label, and has researched and evaluated hundreds of surfactants, including the ones highlighted in this Alternatives Assessment.

Through SDSI, EPA recognizes product manufacturers who are formulating with safer surfactants in lieu of NPEs across entire product lines.

The Alternatives Assessment includes ideas for ways to expand progress in the use of safer surfactants.

How do I get more information?

If you would like more information, please contact Melanie Adams at