“Safe” dishwasher detergents required in Oregon

Water-friendly Dishwasher Detergents Now on Oregon Grocery Shelves

By Department of Environmental Quality

In Oregon, a new DEQ requirement mandates that all automatic dishwasher detergents for residential use have low-phosphate formulas. Effective, July 1, the law requires that dishwasher detergents contain no more than 0.5 percent phosphorus. Because soaps designed for washing dishes by hand are already phosphorus-free, the new requirement affects only soaps used in automatic dishwashers.

Some experts have estimated that dishwasher detergent accounts for 10 to 12 percent of the phosphorus in wastewater.

Phosphorus that goes down the drain creates water pollution problems. When phosphorus gets into rivers and especially lakes, it acts as a fertilizer for algae and plants in the water. This can lead to oxygen depletion, suffocating fish and other aquatic life. In some cases, excess phosphorous can lead to blooms of blue-green algae that produce toxins and poisons that can cause serious illness or death in pets, livestock, wildlife and humans.

Sewage treatment plants can remove much of the phosphorus from our wastewater, but they cannot remove all of it before it reaches rivers, lakes and streams.

“Implementing this law is part of DEQ’s ongoing efforts to improve the health of water in Oregon’s lakes, rivers and streams and protect people, pets and fish,” said DEQ Director Dick Pedersen.

In 1992, the Oregon Legislature adopted phosphorus limits for cleaning agents including soaps and laundry detergents. The new requirements adopted by the Oregon legislature in 2009 relate to automatic dishwasher detergents only and reduce the limit from 8.7 percent to 0.5 percent.

“We were very pleased to have support from the national American Cleaning Institute on this important legislation. This is an excellent addition to Oregon’s already existing limit on phosphorous in laundry detergents,” said Senator Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland), lead sponsor of the legislation and chair of Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “With fewer phosphates entering our waterways, Oregon will have healthier rivers, streams, and lakes for us all to enjoy.”

The legislature amended the bill to bring the implementation date in line with other states proposing similar bans.

The other states joining Oregon in the move away from phosphate-laden detergents July 1, 2010 are Washington, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The new law does not apply to commercial and industrial dishwasher products.

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