Did 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?
LAS 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.
In which products is LAS used?
LAS 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.
In what circumstances do I get in contact with LAS?
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.
What are the risks in case of domestic accidents?
In 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.
What about skin irritation and allergic effects?
There 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
Does this ingredient end up in the environment?
Yes, 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.
Are there relevant traces of LAS in our food-chain?
No. 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.
Does LAS have a negative effect on the environment?
Not 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.