Over the past few months, several cooperatives nationwide have sent letters asking their producer members to use teat dips without NPEs (Nonylphenol ethoxylates), according to dairy producers and field staff we've asked about the matter. Although it caused concern at first, due to the unfamiliarity of the products, it appears NPEs are slowly being removed from the teat-dip market.
NPEs are found in variety of cleaning items. They become a problem for some foreign export markets when milk is evaporated into powder, concentrating the NPEs to a much more noticeable level.
A 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection agency report outlines how NPEs are used as surfactants in many cleaning agents, like in laundry detergents. NPEs are "extremely toxic" to aquatic organisms, according to the document. But dairy plant field representatives we talked to said the ingredient is easily replaceable in formulas, but is simply much cheaper than its replacement.
One Midwestern exporter and another in California are reportedly the reason behind the letters. In one Midwestern cooperative, a field person checked the 20 farms supplying the powder plant requesting removal from farms, and found that just 2 of them were using products containing NPEs.
This field representative found that both were going to be switching away from the product, and their product providers said that NPE was going to be discontinued in teat dips they were selling.
Three cooperatives we talked to familiar with the matter said they do not currently intend to do testing for NPEs, nor were the affected exporters.
If your cooperative or processor has not sent you a letter, you might not have anything to worry about, as NPEs may be absent from the market very soon. However, you may want to ask your teat dip supplier whether or not your teat dip using has NPEs, and what the cost difference will be for a non-NPE product.