Fish smile but some consumers frown at new genre of phosphate-free detergents

Jan 26, 2011

introduced to combat the phosphate-fed algae blooms that foul the nation's lakes and rivers -- may be making the fish happy. But they're putting a frown on the faces of some consumers who say the new products leave dishes dirty. That's the topic of the cover story in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Assistant Managing Editor Michael McCoy described how new laws in 16 states require manufacturers to eliminate phosphates from automatic dishwasher detergents sold in the United States. Once hailed as a wonder for making dishes squeaky clean, sodium tripolyphosphate later became a villain in the fight against water pollution.

It can wash down household drains, through sewage treatment facilities, and into lakes and streams. Just like the fertilizer applied to crops, it kick-starts growth of algae, which die, decay, and deplete oxygen from the water, causing kills and other problems. McCoy explains that the well-intentioned phosphate-removal laws, however, have caused an unintended problem for some consumers, leaving dishes and glassware with spots and unsightly films.

Detergent manufacturers are now turning to chemists and the chemical industry in a search for phosphate-free formulas that don't leave dishes dirty. Some manufacturers have already found promising alternatives, while others are testing new detergent ingredients, including polymers and enzymes, that can clean like phosphates without contributing to water pollution.

Explore further: What causes the sunlight flavour in milk?

More information: "Goodbye, Phosphates" pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/89/8904cover.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Maryland to ban phosphorus in soap

Mar 23, 2007

Maryland lawmakers approved a ban on dish detergent containing phosphorus in an effort to keep phosphates out of Chesapeake Bay.

Noxious algae gone, but who knows how long

Jan 03, 2007

Recent storms may have washed away algae blooms in a Florida chain of lakes, but experts said algae threats remain because of pollution feeding the lakes.

Household cleaners effectively remove lead-laden dust

Dec 15, 2005

All-purpose detergents remove lead-contaminated dust from household surfaces just as effectively as high phosphate detergents and lead-specific cleaning products, according to new research scheduled for publication in the ...

Recommended for you

Na-ion batteries get closer to replacing Li-ion batteries

17 hours ago

(Phys.org)—As lithium resources continue to decline worldwide, the next generation of portable electronics will most likely be powered by something other than Li-ion batteries. One potential candidate is ...

What causes the sunlight flavour in milk?

17 hours ago

Most of us have tasted milk that has been left in the sun – it has a distinctive off-flavour. The reason is that milk and other dairy products turn rancid when exposed to light.

Scientists find clues to cancer drug failure

Mar 02, 2015

Cancer patients fear the possibility that one day their cells might start rendering many different chemotherapy regimens ineffective. This phenomenon, called multidrug resistance, leads to tumors that defy ...

Smart crystallization

Mar 02, 2015

A novel nucleating agent that builds on the concept of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) could allow crystallographers access to proteins and other biological macromolecules that are usually reluctant ...

Supersonic electrons could produce future solar fuel

Mar 02, 2015

Researchers from institutions including Lund University have taken a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. In a new study, they have successfully tracked the electrons' rapid transit through ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VOR
not rated yet Jan 28, 2011
Trying to wash dishes without friction is inherently difficult and inefficient. With far less soap (non-phospate) and less hot water you can get dishes perfectly clean if you add a little elbow grease. By the time you rinse and handle dishes to load them in washer you could almost have them washed by hand. I'm not saying dishwashers have no place whatsoever, but I suspect in many cases people could actually be more satified without them.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.