Since surfactants are widely used in detergents, home care, and cosmetic products they are present in all households. Consumers are exposed to surfactants virtually every day. Therefore, they are, in terms of health and environmental protection, among the most studied class of chemicals. Skin contact can be rated as a foreseeable use while an accidental contact with eyes can occur as well. In general, irritant effects of the surfactants on the skin are considered to be the most typical adverse reaction. Although the eye is more susceptible to adverse reaction than the skin, damage by surfactants to the eye, and more specifically eye irritation, is typically reversible if the concentrations do not exceed critical threshold limits.
Clinical data suggest that detergents, and more specifically surfactants , do not induce an allergenic reaction even though rare cases of an allergic reaction cannot be fully excluded.
Surfactants , as any chemical, underlie the European chemical legislation , foremost the REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals – Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 ). REACH stipulates the evaluation of the general toxicological hazard of chemicals, and the use of alternative and in vitro methods to gain the required information is promoted. However, due to their unique physico-chemical properties, surfactants tend to interfere with alternative testing methods. This makes careful evaluation of appropriate testing conditions indispensable for the appropriate evaluation of the surfactants’ hazard.