Understanding APE-Free Surfactants in Adjuvants
You might not be familiar with the term “alkylphenol ethoxylates” (APEs), but they are important ingredients in products that help with pesticides and adjuvants. These surfactants have made a name for themselves because they mix well with other substances and help products work better.
However, studies over the past decades have raised concerns about their environmental safety. APEs do not break down easily and can linger in nature, affecting wildlife and potentially entering the human food chain. Due to these issues, there has been a significant move to limit the use of APEs globally.
Identifying APEs in Products
APEs, especially Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs), are common but may be listed under different names on product labels. Look for terms like nonyl phenoxy ethanol, Poly (oxyethylene) nonyl phenyl ether, Polyethylene glycol nonyl phenyl ether, Poly(oxy-1,2-ethanediyl),.alpha.-(nonyl phenyl)-.omega.-hydroxyl, Poly(oxyethylene)mono(nonyl phenyl) ether, Nonoxynols, Poly nonylphenol ethoxylates and Nonyl phenoxy poly (ethylene oxy) ethanol’s are among the Principle Functioning Agents or Active Ingredients to identify them.
The Push for APE-Free Alternatives
There are compelling reasons to switch to APE-free surfactants:
- Growing Environmental concerns:
APEs such as NPEs can degrade into chemicals that persist in the environment, accumulating in the ecosystem and potentially affecting human health. These chemicals are demonstrating an ability to accumulate within sediment and move up the food chain to humans. All surfactants have part of their structure that is attracted to water and another part of the structure that repels water or is attracted to fats. Alkylphenols are the part of a structure that are attracted to fats and is therefore easily deposited in the fat tissues of animals in the food chain. Studies are showing the presence of alkylphenols present in fat tissues of humans and in breast milk of humans. Studies are also showing APEs and alkylphenols demonstrate low biodegradability in sediments and can persist for decades.
Studies are emerging that APEs and their byproducts, even at low concentrations, can be harmful to aquatic organisms. This is particularly concerning because herbicide tank mixtures either applied directly to aquatic weeds or runoﬀ from terrestrial applications can have a direct impact on freshwater ecosystems.
APEs and their byproducts are often categorized as endocrine disruptors which are chemicals that possess an ability to imitate natural hormones, such as one of the main female sex hormones (estrogen) in animals, which may lead to disruption of hormone-driven processes, particularly those pertaining to reproduction and development. APEs, in general, make up a fraction in a spray tank mix. However, their long-term use is the most probable cause for their accumulation up the food chain. For this reason, we need to manage the quantity of APEs since they have been ubiquitous within the industries for decades.
- Regulatory Landscape:
APEs are coming under growing scrutiny due to environmental and health concerns, leading to a push for regulations worldwide. The European Union has already imposed restrictions on APEs. The United States EPA has been promoting the use of safer alternatives through their Design for the Environment (DfE) program since 2012. Additionally, the EPA has proposed a signiﬁcant new use rule (SUNR) for fifteen nonylphenols and nonylphenol ethoxylates under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Several states within the US have imposed restrictions on the use of APEs, a trend that will continue in the following years.
Surfactants that are free of alkylphenol ethoxylates (APE) are being tailored to provide equivalent or superior performance in spreading, wetting, and penetration compared to APE-containing surfactants. This ensures that the product’s eﬀectiveness is not compromised. Today, numerous alternatives exist that are synthetic and natural.
- Public Perception & Corporate Responsibility:
With the growing demand for environmental and ecosystems awareness, consumers and the public alike have been demanding more eco-friendly and less hazardous products. The transition from APEs to APE-free surfactants in our product is a key step in which Brewer International is proactively becoming a more environmentally friendly company.
- Innovation & Diversiﬁcation:
The shift towards APE-free surfactants will continue to encourage innovation in the Adjuvant and herbicide industry, leading to the creation and implementation of newer, safer, and more eﬃcient products. Diversifying the sources of surfactants will minimize dependence on a single raw material (for example, APEs), which in turn would enhance supply chain resilience.
Brewer International’s Commitment
Brewer International is leading the way by developing APE-free adjuvants that are safer for the environment. Our Brewer APE-free Product line including names like Agro-Balance+, Aqua-Balance+, Aqua-Boost+, BrewPoint+ fka Brewer 80-20, Cide-Kick+, Cide-Kick II+, Crop-Kick+, Lineup+ fka Brewer 90-10, Sil-Energy+, Silnet+ fka Silnet 200, Sun Control+, Sun Wet+, SunEnergy + meets the “Design for the Environment’ standards set by the U.S. EPA. We are proud to offer these eco-friendly alternatives to the market.
Ready to start something great?
Let us help you decide if our products are the right fit for you by answering any questions you may have.