This group of chemicals includes substances such as: propylphenol, butylphenol, amilphenol, heptylphenol, octylphenol, nonylphenol, dodecylphenol etc. Alkylphenols are used to make surfactants, detergents, solvents, emulsifiers, moisturisers as well as plasticisers. Some derivatives have been used as additives in plastics (e.g. in PVC or modified polystyrene).They are used in phenolic (and epoxy-phenolic) resins found in many homes in items such as water pipes, cladding etc. as well as adhesives, rubbers, coatings, cosmetics and personal care products, paints, pesticides, detergents, cleaning products, textiles. As you can see, they are common pollutants in the home.
They are major pollutants in the natural environment as well, especially in water. Their toxic effects on aquatic organisms (e.g. hermaphroditism in fish) are cause for concern, as well as their pollution of the water supply. They have also been detected as contaminants in our food. Because of their use in many materials and products, they are worryingly frequent pollutants in our domestic environment. There have been other studies conducted which have detected higher levels in new homes and in materials such as PVC, and other studies have shown a link between the presence of these chemicals and the use of certain products in the home.
These chemicals have been detected in a high percentage of human bodies in several countries, and amongst these chemicals, there are compounds e.g. nonylphenols which have been identified by scientists as causing hormonal imbalances, linking them to having toxic effects on fertility and development. This pushed the European Union to put measures in place to reduce the use of alkylphenols in some products (e.g. cosmetics) but they still continue to cause problems.
Other studies show a link between alkylphenols and problems such as leucoderma or poor sperm quality, as is the case for octylphenol which has also been linked to hormonal imbalances, changes during puberty etc.