Octylphenol, nonylphenol and their ethoxylates

Octylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates (APEO) have a toxic effect on aquatic organisms even in low concentrations and have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system of fish. These substances are therefore of particular concern and will be substituted in all their uses in the not too distant future.

Basic legal sources

1. Provisions of Annex 1.8

Since 1 August 2006, certain products that are discharged with wastewater during their use, as well as pesticides, may no longer contain nonylphenol (NP) or its ethoxylates (NPE). The restrictions are identical to those in Annex XVII of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (REACH). In contrast to the EU, the ban has been extended to octylphenol (OP) and its ethoxylates (OPE), which are structurally closely related. This is to ensure that NPE is not substituted with OPE, which is equally hazardous for the environment. The NPE and OPE bans have been in force since 1 August 2008 and apply to:

  • textile detergents
  • detergents derived from waste water
  • cosmetics
  • textile, leather and metal working products
  • agents for the manufacture of pulp and paper
  • agricultural teat-dips that contain these substances as emulsifiers
  • biocide products and plant protection products that contain these substances as co-formulants

The bans do not apply to:

  • spermicides
  • textile and leather processing products if no OPE or NPE is released into wastewater when they are used, or if the organic fraction is completely removed from the process water prior to the biological waste-water treatment.
  • metal working products when used in close and controlled systems, provided the cleaning liquid is recycled or incinerated.

In addition, no washable textiles containing nonylphenol ethoxylates may be placed on the market from June 2022.

2. Provisions of Annex 1.17

In line with the provisions of Annex XIV to REACH, the placing on the market and use of OPE and NPE are subject to general bans, which come into force in Switzerland on 2 May 2024. As in the EU, the substances listed in Annex 1.17 are prohibited, though they may be declared exempt from the ban in certain circumstances: authorisations granted by the EU Commission are regarded in Switzerland as exemptions from the prohibition, provided the substances concerned are placed on the market and used in accordance with the terms of the EU authorisation. Furthermore, the provisions of Annex 1.17 ORRChem stipulate that the Chemicals Registration Authority, in consultation with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), may grant additional temporary exemptions for placing prohibited substances on the market and using them in Switzerland if alternative substances or procedures are not yet available. Further information is available at Substances listed in Annex XIV to REACH.

3. Hierarchy of provisions

If a substance is restricted under Annex 1.8, it cannot be permitted or authorised under Annex 1.17.

Last modification 06.09.2023

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