Phosphates in detergent
Phosphates in detergent refers to the use of phosphates as an ingredient in a detergent product. The advantage of using phosphates in a consumer laundry detergent or dishwashing detergent is that they make detergents more efficient by chelating calcium and magnesium ions. The disadvantage of using phosphates is that they remain in wastewater and eventually make their way to a natural body of water. While phosphates are low toxicity, they instead cause nutrient pollution and feed the algae. This leads to eutrophication and harmful algal bloom.
States including Maine, Florida, and Indiana in the United States began restricting or banning the use of phosphates in laundry detergent in the early 1970s, culminating in a nationwide voluntary ban in 1994. In July 2010, 17 states followed up with bans on its use in automatic dishwasher detergent.
In 2011 the European Commission announced that the European Parliament had ordered a ban of phosphates in consumer laundry detergent by June 2013 and a ban in dishwasher detergent by January 2017.
Australia began phasing out the use of phosphates in its detergents in 2011, with an all-out ban expected to take effect in 2014.
Canada banned some phosphates in detergent in 2011.
Italy started phasing out phosphates in the 1980s.
Pursuant to findings published in 2006 by the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design indicating that liquid detergents are "much more environment-friendly" than powdered detergents, Israel's Ministry of the Environment began recommending that consumers prefer liquid detergent over powdered ones "for laundry which is not heavily stained."
Banning discussion in the United States started because of pollution of the Great Lakes. Seventeen US states have partial or full bans on the use of phosphates in dish detergent, and two US states (Maryland and New York) ban phosphates in commercial dishwashing. In 1983 there was a corruption scandal in which industry sought to influence government regulators regarding the ban.
Phosphates have low toxicity in the environment but causes nutrient pollution, a major water quality problem in many watersheds. Phosphates in water cause eutrophication of algae which creates conditions favorable to formation of harmful algal blooms. These blooms prevent light and oxygen from getting into the water, leading to the death of organisms in the ecosystem.
Studies have revisited the question of whether existing household phosphate bans are effective in reducing phosphorus concentration in waterways, and subsequent algal blooms. A 2014 case study of Vermont phosphate policies around Lake Champlain showed that while the bans reduced the phosphate contribution by treated wastewater from households to five percent of the total contribution, algal blooms have still continued to worsen for other reasons.
Most dishwasher detergent contains complex phosphates, as they have several properties that aid in effective cleaning. However, the same chemicals have been removed from laundry detergents in many countries as a result of concerns raised about the increase in algal blooms in waterways caused by increasing phosphate levels (see eutrophication).
From the 1960s-2010s the standard way to determine the amount of phosphate in water is using colorimetry. It is possible to use optical sensors for measurements, which could be easier and cheaper, but this is not a common practice.
Sodium tripolyphosphate was an excellent builder used in laundry detergent powders. However, due to issues of biodegradability many countries have banned the use of phosphates in detergents. Manufacturers are using substitutes such as EDTA and other biodegradable chemicals instead.
Phosphates bind calcium and magnesium ions to prevent 'hard-water' type limescale deposits. They can cause ecological damage, so their use is starting to be phased out. Phosphate-free detergents are sold as eco-friendly detergents.
In the 21st century phosphates began to be reduced in percentage terms as an ingredient, leading to a New York Times report that said "low- or phosphate-free dishwasher detergents it tested, including those from environmentally friendly product lines that have been on the market for years, none matched the performance of products with phosphates".
Society and culture
History of discussion
There was a conflict between industry which wanted to continue to use phosphates and advocates who wanted to preserve water quality.
In the 1960s scientists recognized that phosphates in water caused eutrophication. There was disagreement at that time about whether water with high phosphate came to have the chemical because of somehow being polluted with it. By the 1970s it was established that high phosphate levels in water were a consequence of pollution. Discussion began about how to respond to the effects of phosphates as a pollutant in both fresh and marine water.
Detergent companies claimed it is not cost effective to make separate batches of detergent for the states with phosphate bans (although detergents are typically formulated for local markets), and so most have voluntarily removed phosphates from all dishwasher detergents. According to the Washington Post, phosphorus keeps "minerals from interfering with the cleaning process and prevent food particles from depositing again on dishes." According to Time magazine, "One reason detergent makers have been using large amounts of phosphorus is that it binds with dirt and keeps it suspended in water, allowing the other cleaning agents to do their best work. Phosphorus is especially important in regions with hard water because the presence of lots of minerals can interfere with cleaning agents."
Consumer Reports product testing found that new detergent formulations without phosphates did not wash dishes as well but were satisfactory replacement products. Similarly, testing found that phosphate bans in laundry detergent led to newer products which did not clean clothes as well but still could compete with the older products containing phosphate.
- Kogawa, Ana Carolina; Cernic, Beatriz Gamberini; do Couto, Leandro Giovanni Domingos; Salgado, Hérida Regina Nunes (February 2017). "Synthetic detergents: 100 years of history". Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal. doi:10.1016/j.jsps.2017.02.006. PMC 5605839.
- European Commission (14 December 2011). "EP supports ban of phosphates in consumer detergents". europa.eu. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
- Litke, David W. (1999). "USGS WRI99-4007 Review of Phosphorus Control Measures in the United States and Their Effects on Water Quality". pubs.usgs.gov. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- "The Great Soap Opera". Consumer Reports: 413–422. July 1987.
- "Low-Phosphate Dishwasher Detergents That Work". Consumer Reports. 3 August 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Stevenson, Seth (27 December 2011). "The Dishwasher Wars". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- "Detergents Guidance Document". Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- European Commission (4 April 2007). "Pursuant to Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 648/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on detergents, concerning the use of phosphates". eur-lex.europa.eu. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Barlass, Tim (12 June 2011). "Detergents to dump phosphates". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
He is now in discussions with a detergent industry group about retiring the P phosphate symbol once the full ban starts in 2014.
- Wallace, Kenyon (6 January 2011). "Phosphate ban means streaky dishes". National Post. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Italy bans phosphates from lauandry detergents
- "Reducing Wastewater Salinity from Detergents" (PDF). Ministry of the Environment (Israel). Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- Alexander, GR (September 1977). "The rationale for a ban on detergent phosphate in the Great Lakes Basin". Ciba Foundation symposium (57): 269–84. PMID 249680.
- "Md. Dish Soap Bill Might Help Clean Bay". Washingtonpost.com. 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
- Maitland, Leslie (24 March 1983). "TOP E.P.A. OFFICIAL IS ACCUSED OF INTERVENING IN BEHALF OF COMPANY". The New York Times.
- Dills, Isabelle (17 June 2008). "Washington State Begins Ban On Dishwashing Detergents". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- Rein, Lisa (23 March 2007). "Maryland Takes Step To Clean Up Detergent". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- Ashforth, G.K.; Calvin, George (January 1973). "Safety evaluation of substitutes for phosphates in detergents". Water Research. 7 (1–2): 309–320. doi:10.1016/0043-1354(73)90171-1.
- "UNDERSTANDING THE FAILURE TO REDUCE PHOSPHORUS LOADING IN LAKE CHAMPLAIN: LESSONS FOR GOVERNANCE" (PDF). Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Walsh, Bryan (13 November 2010). "Greener Dishwashing: A Farewell to Phosphates". TIME.com. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
- Warwick, Christopher; Guerreiro, Antonio; Soares, Ana (March 2013). "Sensing and analysis of soluble phosphates in environmental samples: A review". Biosensors and Bioelectronics. 41: 1–11. doi:10.1016/j.bios.2012.07.012.
- Knud-Hansen, Chris (February 1994). "HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE PHOSPHATE DETERGENT CONFLICT". www.colorado.edu. CONFLICT RESEARCH CONSORTIUM. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Lee, G. Fred; Rast, Walter; Jones, R. Anne (August 1978). "Water Report: Eutrophication of water bodies: Insights for an age old problem". Environmental Science & Technology. 12 (8): 900–908. Bibcode:1978EnST...12..900L. doi:10.1021/es60144a606.
- "Phosphate Free Dishwasher Detergent Leaves Dishes Dirty". GE Appliances. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
- McCoy, Michael (24 January 2011). "Goodbye, Phosphates". Chemical & Engineering News. 89 (4). Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Ebeling, Ashlea (8 June 2007). "Environmental Activists Get Under Your Sink". Forbes. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- McGrath, Susan (23 July 1994). "It All Comes Out in the Wash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- Mazis, Michael B.; Settle, Robert B.; Leslie, Dennis C. (November 1973). "Elimination of Phosphate Detergents and Psychological Reactance". Journal of Marketing Research. 10 (4): 390. doi:10.2307/3149386.