Mar 26, 2007

Maryland State to Ban Phosphorus in Dish Soap

Marylanders will clean their dishes with detergent that's all but free of pollution-causing phosphorus under legislation approved by the House of Delegates yesterday, following passage last week in the Senate. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will sign the bill, his spokesman said, apparently agreeing with lawmakers that his constituents don't need to foul the Chesapeake Bay while they clean their dishes. Read full on
The industry bitterly fought Maryland's law limiting phosphorus in laundry detergent 22 years ago and succeeding in exempting dishwashing detergent. But a lot of people forgot that one of the bay's three worst pollutants was still legal in a product in every kitchen. "It just kind of lay there for 22 years," Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Prince George's), the bill's House sponsor, said yesterday. "Everybody assumed this had already been done."
"It seems almost like a comical issue: You're talking about dish detergent," Gansler said. "But it really will have an impact." Phosphorus is one of the top pollutants in the bay, along with nitrogen and sediment. Environmental advocates say it's a forgotten culprit because it's most detrimental in freshwater rivers and lakes, where it encourages oxygen-depleting algae blooms. The bay ranges in salinity, mixing fresh and saltwater. The phosphorus load could go down 3 percent without detergent's contribution, about 30,000 pounds a year, environmentalists estimate. To meet the state's water-quality goals by 2010, the bay must shed 1 million pounds of phosphorus.

But a question lingers for doyennes of the kitchen: If the workhorse ingredient in Cascade, Palmolive, Electrosol and 10 or so other brands of automatic dish detergent disappears from supermarket shelves, will the plates get as clean? Can anyone say "neuhomecare"?   ;-)