Ban on dishwasher detergents with high phosphates to begin July 1st


Beginning July 1st, it will be illegal for retailers to sell high phosphate dishwasher detergent in sixteen states. The new phosphate limit of 0.5 percent phosphorus by weight only applies to non-commercial dishwasher detergents. 

A ban on phosphates had been in the works in a number of states since 2008, to give detergent companies time to develop effective dishwashing alternatives. 

The problem with phosphates is that when they get into our waterways, they promote the growth of algae. This in turn blocks out sunlight, depleting oxygen in the water and potentially killing off aquatic wildlife. 

The July 1st ban isn’t meant to take major cleaning brands off the shelves. Many companies have already introduced low phosphate formulas to the market, though some of these have come under criticism of not working as well as their predecessors. The reason being perhaps is that phosphates can constitute as much as 24 percent of a standard dishwashing detergent’s formula.  

Phosphates in our waterways create disastrous algae blooms like this one

Some of the alternatives that have rapidly gained popularity include Seventh Generation, Method brand, and Clorox’s Green Works (which won the endorsement of the Sierra Club). Unilever has jumped on the bandwagon and Martha Stewart has introduced her new “Clean” line low phosphate detergent that she developed with Hain Celestial Brand . 

The 16 states instituting the ban include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 

Parts of Oregon had already banned the use of high phosphate detergents and the Oregon legislature had passed a law in 2009 lowering the level of phosplates allowed in automatic dishwasher detergents from 8.7 percent to 0.5 percent. 

California’s governor vetoed the ban, making his the only state to reject the ban. Very odd for a state that prides itself in being at the forefront of environmental efforts. 

It will be intersting to see how quickly the other 34 states move to take on this important environmental initiative. Dennis Griesing, vice president of government affairs for the American Cleaning Institute, believes it could happen in a relatively short time.

One Response

  1. This is an earth friendly advisory. Hope many can have the opportunity reading (these) posts. Yeah, at home we are careful choosing our dishwasher detergents. We get ours at, an earth-friendly online shop.

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