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Environ Int. 2002 Nov;28(5):337-48.

Biological activity and environmental impact of anionic surfactants.

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Institute of Chemistry, Chemical Research Centre, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest.


The newest results concerning the biological activity and environmental fate of anionic surfactants are collected and critically evaluated. The chemical and physicochemical parameters related to the biological activity and the field of application are briefly discussed. Examples on the effect of anionic surfactants on the cell membranes, on the activity of enzymes, on the binding to various proteins and to other cell components and on their human toxicity are presented and the possible mode of action is elucidated. The sources of environmental pollution caused by anionic surfactants are listed and the methods developed for their removal from liquid, semiliquid and solid matrices are collected. Both the beneficial and adversary effects of anionic surfactants on the environment are reported and critically discussed. It was concluded that the role of anionic surfactants in the environment is ambiguous: they can cause serous environmental pollution with toxic effect on living organisms; otherwise, they can promote the decomposition and/or removal of other inorganic and organic pollutants from the environment. The relationship between their chemical structure, physicochemical parameters, biological activity and environmental impact is notwell understood. A considerable number of data are needed for the development of new anionic surfactants and for the successful application of the existing ones to reduce the adversary and to promote beneficial effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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