Octylphenol ethoxylate (Triton X-100) ban

Use of alkylphenol ethoxylate (APE) surfactants such as nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and octylphenol ethoxylates (OPEs), which include Triton X-100, has been banned in the European Union due to their ecotoxicity. While the permission to use Triton X-100 was extended due to the COVID pandemic, the use of it will become restricted on December 22, 2023. [1]

What is Triton X-100?

Triton X-100, also known as octylphenol ethoxylate, is a chemical compound that has a  hydrophilic polyethylene oxide chain and an aromatic hydrophobic group. It is a clear viscous fluid, soluble in water at room temperature and commonly used as a detergent in laboratories. Because of its property to disrupt the cell membrane's lipid bilayer, Triton X-100 is used for example to permeabilize the membranes of living cells or in cell lysis to extract proteins. Outside of research work it has been used in some pharmaceuticals and vaccines (to inactivate viruses), and also in different cleaning products.

Why is Triton X-100 banned in the European Union?

While Triton X-100 and most of the similar surfactants are as toxic as regular table salt (according to LD50), it has been found that Triton X-100 is dangerous due to it breaking down relatively easily into octylphenol. The latter is a toxic chemical that can be very persistent in the environment [2]. For humans it can potentially alter reproductive function, increase incidences of breast cancer, affect growth patterns and neurodevelopment in children and also change the immune function [3][4][5]. High concern also applies to wildlife [2][4]. 

What should I know about the restriction of Triton X?

The European Chemicals Agency included Triton X-100 in the Annex XIV of REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). According to that the pharmaceutical and other industries have to replace Triton X-100 by the “sunset date” January 4, 2021. However due to the COVID crisis the “sunset date” was extended until December 22, 2023 for the research, development and production of medicinal products that are used for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of COVID-19. [1]

Prohibiting the use of Triton X-100 means that for the EU manufactures to be REACH compliant, they must find substitutes to this chemical in their products and researchers have to find an alternative for their work, unless authorization was granted by the authorities or the intended use is exempted from authorization. For non-European manufacturers it means that they won’t be able to export their products containing Triton X-100 to the EU anymore.

Read the full regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) HERE [6].

What are the alternatives?

The best alternatives are products that are effective, but at the same time eco-friendly and REACH compliant. Luckily Solis BioDyne products are just that. Rest assured, none of our products contain Triton X-100. Also doing science while being environmentally conscious is one of our main goals.

[1] Commission Regulation (EU) 2020/2160, 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2022, from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32020R2160&qid=1633380946883
[2] Octylphenol, 2006. Retrieved 13 July 2022, from https://www.ospar.org/documents?v=7031
[3] Lee, H. R., Kim, T. H., Choi, K. J., & Choi, K. C. (2014). Effects of octylphenol on the expression of cell cycle-related genes and the growth of mesenchymal stem cells derived from human umbilical cord blood. International journal of molecular medicine, 33(1), 221–226.
[4] Lee, H. R., Hwang, K. A., Park, M. A., Yi, B. R., Jeung, E. B., & Choi, K. C. (2012). Treatment with bisphenol A and methoxychlor results in the growth of human breast cancer cells and alteration of the expression of cell cycle-related genes, cyclin D1 and p21, via an estrogen receptor-dependent signaling pathway. International journal of molecular medicine, 29(5), 883–890.
[5] Lee, H. R., Hwang, K. A., Nam, K. H., Kim, H. C., & Choi, K. C. (2014). Progression of breast cancer cells was enhanced by endocrine-disrupting chemicals, triclosan and octylphenol, via an estrogen receptor-dependent signaling pathway in cellular and mouse xenograft models. Chemical research in toxicology, 27(5), 834–842. https://doi.org/10.1021/tx5000156
[6] Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, 2006. Retrieved 29 July 2022, from https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02006R1907-20220501&qid=1659016982705