As chemical substances, surfactants are subject to the EU chemical legislation, namely REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals – Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006) . REACH impacts companies at various levels of the supply chain, from manufacturers to importers and downstream users. Companies are obliged to assess the hazards and potential risks presented by the substance (i.e. the surfactant), based on the data collected and classify the substance accordingly. In most cases, suppliers will decide on the classification of the substance.
Based on this self-classification of the supplier the (downstream-user) determines the impact of the chemical substances (i.e. surfactant) on the classification of the final product, or mixture as it is called in legal terms, following the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation CLP (Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008). This Regulation ensures that the hazards presented by chemicals in the final product are clearly communicated to workers and consumers in the EU through the correct classification and labelling of the mixture.
As well as the chemical legislation that applies to all kinds of chemical substances, surfactants are also impacted by the Detergents Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 648/2004). This regulation imposes, amongst others, special requirements on the biodegradability of surfactants.
In addition to these regulations, specific surfactants exercise biocidal activities. If used as biocidal actives, surfactants are subjected to the Biocidal Product Regulation (Regulation (EU) 528/2012), as well.