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
  • A precursor used for the production of tensides


Sampling area

Sampling period

1985 - 2021