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Phosphates in Laundry Detergent

Phosphates and Eutrophication

Phosphate is a nutrient which when present in excess in rivers and lakes, can cause nuisance growth of plants and algae. This harms the ecology and limits the uses to which the water can be put.

Since the 1980s, increasing concerns over the contribution of phosphates in detergents to eutrophication have led the cleaning products industry in many countries, including the UK, to voluntarily reduce the levels of phosphates in laundry detergents. As a result, the proportion of phosphate load attributed to domestic laundry cleaning products (DLCPs) has been in steady decline since then. A significant percentage of water bodies in England are not in good condition and excessive nutrient levels are a contributory factor. In order to improve water quality, it is therefore necessary to consider how we might reduce nutrient levels in the water environment.

What is being done to reduce the level of phosphates?

Defra’s Water Strategy for England, Future Water, sets out the Government's plans for water in the future and the practical steps they will take to ensure that good, clean water is available for people, businesses and nature. It looks ahead to 2030 and describes the hoped-for water supply system and how to achieve it.

The Government is exploring options for the ban on phosphates as an ingredient in DLCPs.  Future Water discussed the issue of pollution from phosphate compounds in DLCPs and estimated that in England 5-10% of phosphate pollution to water comes from detergent use. Defra is working with the UK Cleaning Products Industry to effectively phase out phosphates as an ingredient in DLCPs by the end of 2015.

Defra's Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force on 22nd December 2000 and was put into UK law in 2003. Member States must aim to reach good chemical and ecological status in inland and coastal waters by 2015, this includes reducing pollution of water.

Follow this link to learn more about Future Water, which sets out Defra's Water Strategy for Enlgand.


If you are concerned about the presence of phosphates in laundry detergents and wish to discuss which of the products stocked by Avanti are phosphate-free and therefore kinder on water courses and our natural environment, please contact us for more information.



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