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Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry
Volume 2014, Article ID 769708, 15 pages
Review Article

Occurrence of Surface Active Agents in the Environment

1Chemical Faculty, Gdansk University of Technology, G. Narutowicza 11/12 Street, 80-233 Gdansk, Poland
2Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Silesia, Będzińska 60 Street, 41-200 Sosnowiec, Poland

Received 11 August 2013; Revised 11 December 2013; Accepted 12 December 2013; Published 16 January 2014

Academic Editor: Sinem Göktürk

Copyright © 2014 Ewa Olkowska et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Due to the specific structure of surfactants molecules they are applied in different areas of human activity (industry, household). After using and discharging from wastewater treatment plants as effluent stream, surface active agents (SAAs) are emitted to various elements of the environment (atmosphere, waters, and solid phases), where they can undergo numerous physic-chemical processes (e.g., sorption, degradation) and freely migrate. Additionally, SAAs present in the environment can be accumulated in living organisms (bioaccumulation), what can have a negative effect on biotic elements of ecosystems (e.g., toxicity, disturbance of endocrine equilibrium). They also cause increaseing solubility of organic pollutants in aqueous phase, their migration, and accumulation in different environmental compartments. Moreover, surfactants found in aerosols can affect formation and development of clouds, which is associated with cooling effect in the atmosphere and climate changes. The environmental fate of SAAs is still unknown and recognition of this problem will contribute to protection of living organisms as well as preservation of quality and balance of various ecosystems. This work contains basic information about surfactants and overview of pollution of different ecosystems caused by them (their classification and properties, areas of use, their presence, and behavior in the environment).