Alkylphenol compounds


Class of non-ionic surfactants and their degradation products

Alkylphenols are precursors and degradation products of the alkylphenol ethoxylate surfactants.

Alkylphenol ethoxylates belong to the so called non-ionic surfactants. They are used, e.g., in textile-, leather-, and metalworking industries and are applied as industrial cleaners, bore- and flotation additives, moistening agents, solvents and levelling agents in photo industry.
In the environment, alkylphenol ethoxylates are successively degraded to the respective alkylphenols.

The alkylphenols are more toxic than their parent compounds. Under anaerobic conditions they are persistent and may accumulate strongly in organisms. Alkylphenols are endocrine disruptors with  estrogenic activity.

The commercially most relevant alkylphenols and alkylphenol ethoxylates are the 4-nonyl- und 4-octyl-compounds.

Since 1986 a voluntary self-restriction of German industries resulted in a strong decrease of alkylphenol ethoxylates in cleaners.


4-tert-octylphenol Alkylphenol with a C8-Alkyl-chain
4-Nonylphenol Alkylphenol with a C9-alkyl-chain
4-Nonylphenol monoethoxylate Nonylphenol with one ethoxylate group


Bream Bioindicator in rivers and lakes
Blue mussel One of the most important edible mussel species common in the North and Baltic Sea

Sampling area

Saarländischer Verdichtungsraum Important, old-industrialised conurbation in Germany.
Rhein Longest river in Germany
NP Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft National Park in the largest brackish water (Bodden) habitat of the world.
BR/NP Wattenmeere National park in the world largest connected sand and mud flats.
Elbe Fourth largest river basin in Central Europe

Sampling period

1985 - 2001