Alcohol ethoxysulphates (AES) are a widely used class of anionic surfactants. They are used in household cleaning products, personal care products, institutional cleaners and industrial cleaning processes, and as industrial process aids in emulsion polymerisation and as additives during plastics and paint production.
Uses in household cleaning products, the scope of HERA, include laundry detergents, hand dishwashing liquids, and various hard surface cleaners.
Through its presence in many commonly used household detergents, consumers are exposed to AES mainly via the dermal route, but to some extent also via the oral and the inhalatory route. Skin exposure occurs mainly in hand-washed laundry, laundry pre-treatment and hand dishwashing and to a minor extent also through AES residues in the fabric after the washing cycle and skin contact during hard surface cleaning tasks.
Oral exposure occurs mainly through residues deposited on eating utensils and dishes after hand dishwashing. AES are of low acute toxicity. Neat AES are irritant to skin and eyes. The irritation potential of AES containing solutions depends on concentration. Local dermal effects due to direct or indirect skin contact with AES containing solutions in hand-washed laundry or hand dishwashing are not of concern because AES is not a contact sensitizer and AES is not expected to be irritating to the skin at in-use concentrations. The available repeated dose toxicity data demonstrate the low toxicity of AES. Also, they are not considered to be mutagenic, genotoxic or carcinogenic, and are not reproductive or developmental toxicants. The consumer aggregate exposure from direct and indirect skin contact as well as from the oral route via dishware residues results in an estimated total body burden of 29 µg/kg bw/day.
The comparison of the aggregate exposure and the systemic NOAEL results in a margin of exposure (MOE) of 2586. This is a very large margin of exposure, large enough to account for the inherent uncertainty and variability of the hazard database and inter and intra-species extrapolations, which are usually considered by a factor of 100 or greater.
In summary, the human health risk assessment has demonstrated that the use of AES in household laundry and cleaning detergents is safe and does not cause concern with regard to consumer use.