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Detergents

The legislation on detergents permits improved protection of the environment by safeguarding water systems from the harmful effects of certain substances found in detergents. It also increases consumer protection through more complete labelling which includes any substance that could cause allergies.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

Protection of the environment

This Regulation permits improved protection of the aquatic environment against the surfactants in detergents and other cleaning products. These surfactants – also called tensides – are included in detergents and other cleaning products in order to reduce the surface tension of liquids so that they can wet surfaces and clean them more effectively. The legislation has been made more restrictive by including all types of surfactants and imposing stricter testing methods for detergents to determine the ultimate rather than the initial biodegradability.

Protection of consumers

Consumers will be better protected against fragrance substances and preservation agents that are present in detergents and can cause allergies. Specific labelling has been introduced to inform consumers about the presence in detergents of this type of substance. The Regulation makes the provisions of Commission Recommendation 89/542 on the labelling of these allergenic substances compulsory, by incorporating them into the new legislation.

For healthcare professionals it is possible to obtain from manufacturers full listings of the ingredients in detergents so that they can determine whether there is a causal link between a patient's allergy and a product which is present in a detergent.

Labelling

Manufacturers must list on the labelling all components in decreasing order of concentration as well as the address of a website where consumers can obtain the complete list of ingredients.

All allergens must be indicated on the label.

This Regulation also adds an additional testing method for surfactants with limited solubility in water (amendment to Annex III). This method complies with the standard ISO 10708: 1997 "Water quality - Evaluation in an aqueous medium of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of organic compounds".

The legislation on detergents henceforth applies to all types of surfactant detergents, including fabric softeners and washing machine products.

Context

This Regulation expands the scope of the existing legislation. It repeals five directives on biodegradable surfactant detergents (Directives 73/404/EEC, 73/405/EEC, 82/242/EEC, 82/243/EEC and 86/94/EEC) and Commission Recommendation 89/542 on the labelling of detergents.

This Regulation aims to harmonise the regulations in Member States in a uniform and simultaneous manner and to simplify future changes.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 648/2004

08.10.2005

08.10.2005

OJ L 104 of 08.04.2004; corrigendum OJ L 328 of 15.12.2005.

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1336/2008

20.1.2009
1.6.2015 (Art. 1, points 2 and 3)

-

OJ L 354 of 31.12.2008

Regulation (EC) No 219/2009

20.4.2009

-

OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 have been incorporated into the original text.

AMENDMENTS TO THE ANNEXES

Annex III – Biodegradability control methods
Regulation (EC) No 907/2006 [Official Journal L 168 of 21.6.2006].

Annex V – List of surfactant derogations
Regulation (EC) No 551/2009 [Official Journal L 164 of 26.6.2009].

Annex VI – List of surfactants whose use in detergents is prohibited or restricted
Regulation (EC) No 551/2009 [Official Journal L 164 of 26.6.2009].

Annex VII – Labelling and information sheets on ingredients
Regulation (EC) No 907/2006 [Official Journal L 168 of 21.6.2006].

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council pursuant to Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents, concerning anaerobic biodegradation [COM(2009) 230 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission states in the Report that, in contrast to the absence of aerobic degradation, the lack of anaerobic degradation of surfactants does not seem to be correlated with any apparent risk for the environment. Anaerobic biodegradability should therefore not be used to determine the eventual environmental acceptability of surfactants such as linear alkylbenzene sulphonate (LAS), which are readily biodegradable under aerobic conditions.
As a result, the possible environmental toxicity of surfactants focuses on their biodegradability.
Information provided under the REACH registration procedure should enable the toxicity or absence of toxicity for health and the environment of the ingredients in detergents to be determined. This information should be sufficient to decide whether restrictions on certain surfactants in detergents formulations are needed in addition to those already imposed by the Detergents Regulation.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council Pursuant to Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents, concerning the biodegradation of main non-surfactant organic detergent ingredients [COM(2009) 208 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
When the Detergents Regulation was adopted in 2004, the criterion of ultimate biodegradability ensured that detergent surfactants did not pose a risk to the environment. In the meantime, significant efforts have been made, particularly in preparation for the REACH programme, with the aim of carrying out targeted risk assessments on detergent ingredients. No risk to the environment has been identified for any of the non-surfactant organic detergent ingredients. Many of the non-surfactant organic ingredients are not ultimately biodegradable and are neither toxic to human health nor to the environment. It is, therefore, not considered appropriate to impose a requirement of ultimate biodegradability on the non-surfactant organic ingredients in Community legislation. Applying a principle of ultimate biodegradability to the nonsurfactant organic ingredients would lead to the banning of a number of them where it is known that they do not pose risks. It would therefore be more proportionate to complete instead the risk assessments on the few outstanding substances. The information to be provided in the registration dossiers detailed in the REACH Regulation should enable the environmental risk of toxicity of these substances to be assessed. The REACH registration information should be sufficient to decide whether restrictions on the above-mentioned detergent organic ingredients are needed.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament Pursuant to Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents, concerning the use of phosphates [COM(2007) 234 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission reviewed the progress made in establishing whether legislative measures are justified for regulating the use of phosphates in detergents, in order to improve the quality of bodies of water, which are threatened by an accelerated growth of algae (eutrophication) due to the enrichment of water by nutrients.
An impact assessment of phosphates on eutrophication has been carried out at a pan-European level to evaluate the advantages of switching from phosphate-based detergents to other alternatives. The results of the assessment were still being evaluated by the Commission Scientific Committee at the time of the Report.

Last updated: 01.02.2010
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