Toxicity of Detergents

There is an upper limit of surfactant concentration in natural waters above which the existence of aquatic life, particularly higher animal life, is endangered. Trout are particularly sensitive to concentrations as low as 1 ppm and show symptoms similar to asphyxia [4]. On the other hand, numerous studies, which extended over a period of months and required test animals to drink significantly high doses of surfactants, showed absolutely no apparent ill effects due to digested detergents. Also, there are no instances in which the trace amounts of detergents present in drinking water were directly connected to adverse effects on human health.

River pollution from anionic surfactants, the primarily toxic ones, is of two types: (a) acute toxic pollution due to, for example, an accidental spill from a container of full-

strength surfactant products, and (b) chronic pollution due to the daily discharges of municipal and industrial wastewaters. The international literature contains the result of numerous studies that have established dosages for both types of pollutional toxicity due to detergents, for most types of aquatic life such as species of fish.

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