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Recommendations from the Alkylphenol report

  1. The production of all alkylphenols and their derivatives should be stopped as soon as possible. An immediate ban should not present a problem to most industries. Any industries which require time to modify their processes could be given a couple of years to comply.
  2. Research should continue into evaluating the human health and environmental significance of the oestrogenic toxicity of alkylphenolic compounds. Safety levels for the sum of all alkylphenolic compounds in drinking water, rivers and estuaries must be rapidly established. The safety level for drinking water is likely to be below 1 µg/1 (1 ppb).
  3. The National Rivers Authority should establish standardised analytical methods for all alkylphenolic compounds. Any analysis must measure alkylphenol ethoxylates (of all chain lengths), alkylphenols and alkylphenoxy carboxylic acids.
  4. A thorough survey of UK rivers, and the organisms within them, should be undertaken to establish the levels of all alkylphenolic compounds. Levels in the human body must also be established. All data obtained must be available to the public.
  5. Drinking water in the UK should be analysed for all alkylphenolic compounds, particularly if the drinking water is extracted from a river. Extra treatment should be introduced if the total alkylphenolic compound content is above the safety level.
  6. When the safety of chemicals is being assessed, it is important to keep an open mind on possible mechanisms of toxicity, and the literature should be searched for possible biochemical effects of the compound under assessment, its metabolites and similar compounds. The oestrogenic effects of para-alkylphenols were established in 1938 - 6 years before the introduction of alkylphenol ethoxylates in the UK. These effects were not connected with alkylphenol ethoxylates until 1991 - 53 years later.
  7. A wide-ranging investigation is needed into potential oestrogenic, immune system and nervous system effects of man-made chemicals. This should include analysis of past literature, and development of new toxicological assessment procedures, using cell culture where possible. The study should look first at any chemicals which can accumulate in fat, and which are not easily metabolised. Chemicals that are only used in small volumes, such as perfumes and colourants, may be able to accumulate in fat, and should be included in any investigation.


This page was last updated in October 1999
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