The new regulation will focus on testing the ultimate rather than the primary biodegradability of the surfactants, and will also improve protection of consumer health with regard to allergenic substances in detergents.

Surfactants from washing powders can have a toxic effect on aquatic environments and impose a huge burden on wastewater treatment plants.

Previous regulation focused mainly on prevention of foaming in rivers.

While this has now been largely achieved, the new regulation modernises and extends the scope of the detergent directives to include fabric softeners and dishwasher products – previously excluded through lack of agreed testing methods – as well as making content labelling mandatory.

This is the first time a single regulation will be used for detergents to ensure uniform application of detailed technical requirements in all Member States.

Commission Vice President Gunter Verheugen said: “This is another example of making the EU law slimmer. Trade in the internal market in detergents will be easier. At the same time we do more to protect the aquatic environment and consumer’s health.”

David Hopkins

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