Cleansing act

Published: Saturday 15 September 2001

can detergents and ecosafety go hand in hand? Well, this might happen in Europe if the proposals of the European Commission's industry directorate are accepted. The proposals, aimed to amend the detergents legislation of the European Union (eu), include stringent standards for biodegradability and mandatory labelling of products causing skin irritation. The directorate's proposal has two main goals. Firstly to bring into a single regulation existing eu laws on detergent biodegradability, which have been poorly implemented. Secondly, to introduce stricter testing for detergents so that only those that are "ultimately biodegradable" reach the markets. This means that the detergents should break down completely under microbial action to produce water, carbon dioxide and mineral salts. Current laws require that only some detergents undergo partial biodegradation. If approved by eu governments and members of the European Parliament, the amendments would require all the companies to get their products tested for ultimate biodegradability. Those passing the test would be allowed free access to the eu markets. Those failing would be banned.

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