Sixteen states are beginning a dishwasher detergent phosphate ban, according to a report in the Associated Press. Starting Thursday, stores will no longer be allowed to sell dishwasher detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. However, the law does not apply to commercial dishwashing products.
States instituting the rule include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
In some areas, the ban has already been in place for years. Spokane and Watcom counties in Washington have had a ban in place since 2008, while Oregon passed a law last year that reduced the allowable phosphate levels in automatic dishwasher detergent from 8.7 percent to 0.5 percent.
Phosphates are said to promote plant and algae growth, which then die and increase the bacteria count in water bodies. As bacteria feast on the dead plants and algae, they reduce the amount of oxygen available in the water for other wildlife. Dishwasher detergent could account for up to 10 to 12 percent of all the phosphate present in wastewater. In Spokane, officials reported a 10.7 percent drop in the phosphate levels of wastewater coming into treatment plants.
Although the ban won’t remove any name brands off store shelves, familiar soaps will now be offered with low-phosphate formulas. Some have criticized the low-phosphate formulas as not working as effectively in areas that have hard water.
Eco-friendly dishsoap alternatives, like the Seventh Generation and the Method brand, have been growing in popularity. Meanwhile, Clorox has launched a Green Works product line that has won the endorsement of the Sierra Club while Unilever is seeing its eco-friendly dishsoap products boosting sales. Martha Stewart also joined the low-phosphate club with a new dishsoap she developed with Hain Celestial Brand for her new “Clean” line.