Surfactants in the Environment
Surfactants are a diverse group of chemicals that are best known for their wide use in detergents and other cleaning products. After use, residual surfactants are discharged into sewage systems or directly into surface waters, and most of them end up dispersed in different environmental compartments such as soil, water or sediment. The toxic effects of surfactants on various aquatic organisms are well known. In general, surfactants are present in the environment at levels below toxicity and in Croatia below the national limit. Most surfactants are readily biodegradable and their amount is greatly reduced with secondary treatment in wastewater treatment plants. The highest concern is the release of untreated wastewater or wastewater that has undergone primary treatment alone. The discharge of wastewater polluted with massive quantities of surfactants could have serious effects on the ecosystem. Future studies of surfactant toxicities and biodegradation are necessary to withdraw highly toxic and non-biodegradable compounds from commercial use and replace them with more environmentally friendly ones.