Scientific experts from P&G and other major detergent manufacturers collaborated with leading governmental and academic scientists to develop an array of fate (biodegradation), toxicity and physical-chemical test methods, such as the OECD series (OECD, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). For example, the so-called OECD 301B modified Sturm test for “ready biodegradability” was named after Robert (Bob) Sturm, a P&G researcher who developed the original protocol of the test method in P&G’s EWQL laboratory. The “Sturm Test” was published by P&G in 1973, and was the forerunner of the 1982 OECD Ready Biodegradability Test. The original version was improved by several others such as Robert (Bob) Larson of P&G and subsequent modifications were published by OECD as well as ISO (1990, 1999).
Organizationally, the creation in 1971 of P&G’s Corporate Environmental Safety Department combined with dedicated “safety and regulatory departments” for the each R&D organization, was a pivotal point since these groups supported the product and process development work while they were organizationally independent. A dedicated European environmental research organization was created in 1977. Already in 1975, algal toxicity tests were incorporated into P&G’s internal safety assessments for down-the-drain chemicals. In 1981, the first ever procedures to estimate environmental concentrations of down-the-drain consumer product ingredients were published by P&G’s William (Bill) Holman. In 1983, P&G published its 100th peer reviewed environmental publication on the fate, effects and safety of down-the-drain detergent chemicals.
In many regions, the 1970s and early 1980s were characterized by intense debates, and even occasional “conflicts”, around the safety and properties of detergent ingredients. There was not yet a general agreement on how to evaluate the environmental profile of ingredients and their potential alternatives. For example, there was no consensus on the risk assessment methodologies, on the type and amount of data required and on how to interpret more complex field or stream studies.
In the 70s and 80s, the detergent and cleaning products industry made great progress in terms of laboratory testing and environmental safety procedures as well as in developing reliable environmental monitoring processes. The improvements in these research tools were important to gather the data to address many of the concerns the public and stakeholder organizations were beginning to have on the environmental properties of detergents and their ingredients, such as skin allergies, biocides, phosphates, enzymes, surfactant biodegradability…