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Phosphorus is a nutrient essential to both plant and animal life.
Aquatic plants, by a magnitude of thousands, require less phosphorus
than terrestrial plants to grow. Excess amounts of phosphorus and
nitrogen cause rapid growth of phytoplankton, or algae, creating
dense populations, or blooms. These blooms become so dense that
they reduce the amount of sunlight available to submerged aquatic
vegetation (SAV). Without sufficient light, plants cannot photosynthesize
and produce the food they need to survive. The loss of sunlight
can kill aquatic grasses. Algae may also grow directly on the surface
of SAV. Unconsumed algae will ultimately sink and be decomposed
by bacteria in a process that depletes bottom waters of oxygen.
Like humans, most aquatic species require oxygen. When oxygen in
deep water is depleted, fish and other species will die unless they
move to other areas of suitable habitat. To summarize, phosphorus
pollution accelerates a process called eutrophication, which is
essentially the process of a lake’s biological death due to
depleted bioavailable oxygen.
Negative Impacts of Phosphorus Pollution
- Phosphorus is the nutrient that “limits” (is most
essential to) aquatic plant growth. This means that, if aquatic
plants, such as algae, have excess phosphorus to adsorb, they
can grow out of control.
- One pound of phosphorus can result in the growth 350-700 lbs.
of green algae.
- Algal blooms and excessive submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV)
growth can lead to the biological death, or eutrophication, of
a body of fresh water.
- Blooms of blue-green algae produce neurotoxins (affecting the
nervous system) and hepatoxins (affecting the liver), and can
cause a serious public health problem as well as damage aquatic
- On the economic side, excessive SAV and algal growth due to
phosphorus pollution increases water treatment costs, degrades
fishing and boating activities, and impacts tourism and property
- Phosphorus pollution needs to be remediated 70-90% before a
lake can recover from eutrophication.(2)
The Lawn Fertilizer Myth
- Regular applications of lawn fertilizer are NOT
needed to keep grass healthy, in most cases, and adding excess
fertilizer can burn (remove water from) the grass.
- A simple soil test will indicate whether or not your lawn needs
- Healthy turfgrass leaf tissue has a phosphorus concentration
of about 0.3%.
- Lawn clippings contain about 0.13 pounds phosphorus per 1000
square feet during growing season, which makes them excellent
Advances in Automatic Dishwashing Detergent Formulation
- Most automatic dishwasher detergents have 6%-8% phosphorus content
by weight. This is about the same as the phosphorus content in
Miracle-Gro, a common houseplant fertilizer.
- Advances in detergent formulation since the 1970s have allowed
responsible manufacturers to create high performance automatic
dishwashing detergents (ADDs) that work without using phosphates
in their formulas.
- Many companies are producing commercial, phosphate-free ADDs,
including Seventh Generation, President’s Choice, Bi-O-Kleen,
Shaklee, Ecover, Country Save, Enviro-Links, and Ecos.
- In an independent study conducted by Shuster Laboratories in
Canton, Massachusetts, automatic dishwasher powder and automatic
dishwasher gel produced by Seventh Generation are as effective
as Cascade (the brand Seventh Generation tests against) in terms
of stain removal, spotting, and filming.(4)
(1) Jeer, Sanjay, et al. “Nonpoint Source Pollution: A Handbook
for Local Government, No. 476.” Washington, D.C.: American Planning
Association, December 1997, p. 31.
(2) Glennie, E.B. et al. “Phosphates and Alternative Detergent
Builders – Final Report, Report No. UC 4011.” European
Union Environment Directorate, 31 May 2002, p.121. Europa. 26 January
(3) “Phosphorus in Lawns, Landscapes, and Lakes: An Informative
Guide on Phosphorus.” Minnesota Department of Agriculture. 1
January 2004. 26 January 2005 <http://www.mda.state.mn.us/appd/ace/phosphorusguide.pdf>.
(4) Wolf, Martin H., Director of Product Quality and Testing, Seventh
Generation, Inc. Personal Communication, 23 August 2004.
|This package was last updated on January 27, 2005.