Environmental risk assessment of the anionic surfactant sodium lauryl ether sulphate in site-specific conditions arising from mechanized tunnelling
Finizio A., Patrolecco L., Grenni P., Galli E., Muzzini V.G., Rauseo J., Rizzi C. Barra Caracciolo A.
Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2019

Abstract

Sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLES) is the anionic surfactant commonly utilized as the main synthetic chemical component in most foaming agents used in mechanized tunnelling. This produces huge amounts of soil debris which can contain residual concentrations of SLES. The absence of environmental quality standards for soil and water and the limited information about SLES persistence in real excavated soils do not facilitate any re-use of soil debris as by-products. The environmental risk assessment (ERA) of foaming agents containing SLES can be a valid tool for this purpose. In this study, an ERA analysis of SLES in 12 commercial formulations (cf) used for tunnelling excavation was performed. Various soils from different tunnel excavation sites were conditioned with the selected foaming agents containing SLES. Predicted or measured environmental concentrations (PECs, MECs) were determined and then compared with the Predicted No Effect Concentrations (PNECs) for both the terrestrial and aquatic compartments. The results indicate a reduction of the potential risk over time for these ecosystems, with differences depending on both the commercial foaming formulation and the spoil material characteristics. However, because potential threats to the natural environment cannot be excluded, some risk management and mitigation actions are discussed.

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