Aquatic risk assessment of a polycarboxylate dispersant polymer used in laundry detergents.
Polycarboxylates enhance detergent soil removal properties and prevent encrustation of calcium salts on fabrics during washing. Laundry wastewater typically reaches wastewater treatment plants, which then discharge into aquatic environments. The yearly average concentration of a 4500 molecular weight (MW) sodium acrylate homopolymer reaching U.S. wastewater treatment plants will be approximately 0.7 mg/L. Publications showing the low to moderate acute aquatic toxicity of polycarboxylates are readily available. However, there are no published evaluations that estimate wastewater removal and characterize the probability of exceedance of acceptable chronic aquatic exposure. WW-TREAT can be used to estimate removal during wastewater treatment and PG-GRIDS can be applied to characterize risk for exceedance in wastewater treatment plant outfalls. After adjustments for the MW distribution of the homopolymer, WW-TREAT predicted that 6.5% will be removed in primary treatment plants and 60% will be removed in combined primary and activated sludge treatment plants. These estimates are consistent with wastewater fate tests, but underestimate homopolymer removal when homopolymer precipitation is included. Acceptable levels of chronic outfall (receiving water) exposure were based on aquatic toxicity testing in algae, fish, and Daphnia magna. PG-GRIDS predicted that no unreasonable risk for exceedance of acceptable chronic exposure will occur in the outfalls of U.S. wastewater plants. Future development of wastewater treatment models should consider polymer MW distribution and precipitation as factors that may alter removal of materials from wastewater.
Hamilton, JD; Freeman, MB; Reinert, KH
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