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las in a nutshell

lives04Did you know that the clothes you are wearing have probably been washed with a detergent containing LAS?

LAS is the short name for linear alkylbenzene sulphonate, a surfactant used in detergents.



 What is LAS and how does it work?

the moleculeLAS is a surfactant and is - like soap - responsible for removing the oily & fatty soil adsorbed into fabrics, textiles, china, and any other material we like to clean.

Surfactants have characteristics like lowering the surface tension of water to help the fabrics get wet. They also keep the removed soil in suspension during the washing process in order to be washed away with the suds.

In these ways, surfactants help in several ways to improve the performance of the soap and cleaning agents.

So you see, there is more to detergents than just soap. The science of detergents has come a long way since soap like Marseille.

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 In which products is LAS used?

pic 06LAS is used in nearly all kinds of detergents and cleaning preparations including laundry powders, laundry liquids, manual dishwashing liquids, detergent tablets, soap bars, and household cleaners. LAS may be used in combination with other surfactants to improve the cleaning performance of the formulation and to obtain the best product for each specific application. The amount of LAS used in detergents can vary up to 30% of the weight of the total product.

Today LAS is, after soap, the most widely used surfactant in all detergents and cleaning products. It is the surfactant of choice by detergent manufacturers, not only because it is the most efficient (cost-performance ratio) and versatile, but also because it is the safest one from an environmental and human health point of view. In fact, after more than 30 years of world-wide use, no environmental or human safety negative impact has ever been identified for LAS.

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 In what circumstances do I get in contact with LAS?

pic 11You can get in contact with LAS either by manually washing dishes or manually washing laundry, as well as by skin contact wearing clothes washed with detergents containing LAS.

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 What are the risks in case of domestic accidents?

pic 09In the case of accidental swallowing of products containing LAS, there are no specific health effects expected due to the LAS, given its low toxicity profile. This is reinforced by the fact that poison control centres have not reported cases of poisoning due to LAS.

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 What about skin irritation and allergic effects?

pic 04There are no concerns related to skin-contact by hand washing as LAS does not cause allergies and it is not a skin sensitizer. During laundry pre-treatment, skin contact with concentrated detergents may occur. If you forget to rinse your hands in water after contact with the soapy laundry pre-treater, this may result in temporary skin irritation. Even so, any irritation is neutralised by prompt washing with water. Accidental spillage of some of the product into the eye is to be avoided. It can be expected to result in short-term irritation. As with any (cleaning) product, immediate rinsing of the eyes with water for several minutes should follow.

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 Does this ingredient end up in the environment?

pic 04Yes, but only in a very small percentage as it biodegrades easily. Modern surfactants, like LAS, are designed to biodegrade rapidly once the washing liquids are discharged from our washing machines. The biodegradation process of LAS starts already on the way to the sewage treatment plants. The amount of LAS reaching the treatment plants is nearly half of the quantity used and it is rapidly degraded there.

Due to the constant usage flow of detergents it is normal to find small quantities of LAS in the environment. These quantities are however further degraded in the environment and for this reason accumulation has not been detected. As an industry we monitor this regularly to ensure the product does not harm the environment.

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 Are there relevant traces of LAS in our food-chain?

pic 03No. Traces have not been found in food. As mentioned above the only chance to find LAS in the food chain would be in cases where either the dishes or glasses washed with detergents containing LAS have not been properly rinsed. Even in such a case LAS will not cause harmful effects as it is rapidly metabolised and it does not bioaccumulate.

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 Does LAS have a negative effect on the environment?

pic 01Not in the range of concentrations and consumption you find in today's detergents. Numerous studies have been conducted over the past 25 years in real environmental situations covering waterways, soils, air, treatment plants and so on. The findings of these studies indicate that the use of LAS does not represent a risk for the environment. LAS biodegrades rapidly and does not produce toxic intermediates. LAS breaks down into water and carbon dioxide.

What is the overall conclusion?

In view of the extensive data available and experience learned with LAS it is concluded that its use in household products does not pose a risk for human health and the environment. For more information on the studies that helped form this conclusion please see studies in our library.

The industry works with legislators and partners in industry to ensure that LAS continues to pose no risks for human health and that of our planet.