Eutrophication and Phosphates

Water is life for every living thing on this planet. And it is a resource we must protect from ignorant actions that may cause toxins to contaminate or eutrophication to occur.

Eutrophication is the process where algae blooms in a lake or stream to the point of depriving other life in that environment of oxygen. This deprivation can be so bad that the other life in the environment dies. This process has been linked to both nitrates and phosphates from human activity. This video can explain it in more detail.

While nitrates and phosphates are both naturally occurring, human activities such as farming and washing, may introduce so much to an environment that eutrophication happens. This usually takes place further downstream as the small amounts add to amounts already in the water from other sources until finally causing eutrophication in a lake, pond or other pooling point. Humans introduce nitrates and phosphates into the environment from fertilizers used on farms, when the rain causes run off to drain into local water supplies. Phosphates enter the wastewater from households in cities and towns as well. The source of the phosphates: detergents.

Both dishwashing and laundry detergents have contained phosphates. And while each load only drains a tiny amount of the chemical into the system the accumulation of those doses downstream can become toxic and cause eutrophication. The problem is so bad that regulators have passed laws banning phosphates from both dishwashing detergent and laundry soap.

Why were phosphates included in detergents? Phosphates are excellent degreasers, removing grease and oily stains from clothes and dishes alike. It has been proven that they are not necessary ingredients in detergents to get the same results.

Phosphates were removed from laundry detergents in the 1990s. Many people didn’t notice because most soil and stains can be removed by simple agitation in a washing machine. In the U.S., the removal of phosphates, in early summer of 2017, from dish detergents used in automatic dishwashers has been more noticeable as dishes are coming out of the dishwasher filmy, stained, and speckled. So many people are not happy with it and are perhaps more unhappy than they would otherwise be, because there was no notice that this was being done.

Some people, called bubble bandits, have gone so far as to make their own phosphate detergent. These people often justify their actions by pointing out washing their dishes twice in the machine wastes electricity and washing by hand wastes water. However, this may cause them difficulty later if they live in one of, currently, 7 states where phosphates in detergents have been legally banned. It is because of that7 state ban that detergent makers finally agreed to remove phosphates from their products It is not cost effective to maintain two formulas for sale.

There are dishwasher detergents that are phosphate free, which work as well as phosphate containing ones. Brands such as Seventh Generation and Bright Green are two of the many eco-friendly product lines committed to helping people walk the line between getting their dishes and laundry done and preserving and/or improving the environment.

It is legally optional for detergents to list their ingredients on the container. However, their customer service line can answer the question of whether their product contains phosphates. Even detergent companies keep blogs and maintain FAQs online today.

There is also the option to make your own phosphate free detergents. The cost per load may prove to be cheaper than buying detergents. Sites such as eHow and Youtube both have multiple recipes available and all ingredients are available at the local grocery in most places.

Whether you use store bought or make your own detergent use it wisely by following these tips:

·         Use a green or newly phosphate free brand.

·         Use the least amount of detergent to get the job done. (Fill to cap line)

·         Bonus tip: Use cold water formulas and wash in cold water to save electricity.