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Wash. State Chemical Ban Spurs Detergent Smuggling

When phosphates are outlawed, only outlaws will use phosphates.

A Spokane County, Wash., ban on dishwasher detergents that contain phosphates has led to residents crossing the border into Idaho to seek out forbidden cleaners.

Residents says that the greener alternatives left on the shelves - Seventh Generation, Ecover or phosphate-free products from Palmolive and other companies - just don't clean as well, although that might be due more to hard water than the ingredients in them.

The Washington Lake Protection Association is encouraging consumers to try out different green brands or install water softeners, but that's not enough to stop the stream of residents looking for their old detergents elsewhere.

Steve Marcy, manager of the Costco in Coeur d'Alene, about 10 miles east of the Washington state line, estimated that sales of dishwasher detergent in his store have increased 10 percent. He knows where the customers are coming from.

"I'll joke with them and ask if they are from Spokane," Marcy said. "They say, `Oh yeah.'"

Those who bring in banned detergents aren't really breaking any laws. The ban applies to selling detergents with phosphates, not to using or possessing them.

Phosphates are a concern in consumer products because when they end up in streams, lakes and rivers (they aren't easily removed in wastewater treatment plants), they promote the growth of algae, which sucks up oxygen, stealing it from other animals and organisms in the water.

The ban on dishwasher detergents with phosphates is set to take effect across Washington state in July 2010 though it's starting in Spokane County. Under the ban, dishwasher detergents can have no more than 0.5 percent phosphates, compared to conventional detergents, which have up to 9 percent phosphates. Similar bans have gone into effect or will take place in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia. Phosphates have been banned from laundry detergent since the early 1990s.

Via Associated Press

Dishes - CC license by sooperkuh and mastermaq

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