OAKLAND, CA — A voluntary ban on phosphates in dishwasher detergent, spurred by a large number of state bans, went into effect yesterday.
Members of the American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association, which changed names last month) agreed to reduce phosphates in detergent for household dishwashers to a maximum of 0.5 percent. The ban does not apply to commercial dishwashing detergents.
Phosphates, which were voluntarily banned from laundry detergent in the 1990s, are found in most living things, but when too much ends up in aquatic environments, it spurs the growth of algae blooms that rob oxygen from fish and plants, killing off life.
In 2006, the state of Washington passed a phosphate ban that started out in Spokane County in 2008 (leading some residents to bring in detergent from out of state) and was set to expand statewide this month.
After the Washington ban was passed, more than 15 other states set bans that were scheduled to go into effect this week, essentially forcing the detergent industry's hand since it would be uneconomical to produce one type of detergent with phosphates for some states scattered in the U.S. while making a phosphate-free version for other states.
Clean Water Action, a longtime advocate for banning phosphates, says the ban will also save money at water treatment plants since they will no longer have to spend as much time and resources removing phosphates from water.
Dishwasher - CC license by Flickr user Editor B