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Priority surfactants and their toxic metabolites in waste effluent discharges: An integrated study


The information obtained by the realisation of this project should provide monitoring and risk/hazard evaluation on waste waters and at longer stage will provide information on industry to adopt the Best Available Technique (BAT) in order to make a step in getting the environment closer to its PRISTINE form.

Considering the industrial context there is a need of:

- optimisation of wastewater treatment,
- minimisation of discharges into the environment and
- providing the obtained toxicity data of the surfactants and metabolites to the surfactants manufacturers and users.

In view of the present state of the art of surfactants contamination in the environment there is a need of: .

1. Developing analytical methodology that permits to determine the various surfactants (anionic, non ionic, cationic and amphoteric) and identify new metabolites. In this respect, there is not enough experience for one single laboratory to solve all the analytical methodology, fate and toxicity associated with the presence of a high variety of surfactants in urban and waste effluent samples. Time-consuming and multistep sample preparation methods together with expensive techniques are needed for final identification. In specific cases, for many unknown metabolites, there is even the need of synthesis of the metabolites to unequivocally confirm their presence in the environment.

2. Correlating the analytical information data with toxicity. In this respect there is especially a lack of metabolite information of the various surfactants, their toxicity and their levels in the aquatic environment. The growing importance of these metabolite effects could already be shown at various examples, as e. g. the endocrine disruptor effects of the metabolite nonylphenol, but has not been systematically studied yet.

3. Monitoring of levels of relevant surfactants in biota as e.g. freshwater fish or mussels, correlation with the analytical data through the use of biomonitors (daphnia) and enzymatic activity studies.

4. Studying the degradation pathway in sewage plants, in model studies as well as in the reality, in order to determine their possible impact on the health of the ecosystem.

5. Investigating different aquatic environments in Europe (Spain, Germany and The Netherlands) and achieving a common analytical and toxicological protocol for the environmental fate for the determination of surfactants and metabolites in urban and industrial sewage plants, freshwater, estuarine sediments, coastal areas and water work sludges. This will give an European dimension to the EC project.

This project should bring the possibility of improving the present state of the art in the knowledge of pollution by surfactants and decrease the contamination level due to surfactants adopting an ecological compromise between industry and policy makers resulting in a concrete detailed list of surfactants and metabolites which are not toxic and harmful to the environment.

Call for proposal

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Participants (7)