Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why does phosphorus
need to be controlled?
A. Phosphorus is
a plant nutrient. Yet, excess amounts of phosphorus in wastewater
discharges can cause excessive aquatic plant growth in our streams
and rivers. These plants can cause adverse water quality conditions
by decreasing sunlight penetration, depleting dissolved oxygen during
the night, and interfering with boating and other water uses. In
some cases, decaying algae reduces dissolved oxygen to levels that
cause fish to die. Algae blooms can poison animals and cause allergic
reactions to swimmers.
Q. What detergents
are prohibited by the Phosphate Detergent Act?
A. The act bans
any detergent containing phosphorus. There are at least 8 companies
in this country that produce non-phosphate-based detergents.(1)
Q. How can I determine
the phosphorus content of a detergent?
A. This information
can be found on the package label.
Q. Are there any
exceptions to this ban?
A. The new law contains
exclusions and exemptions to the ban for cleaning agents that are
used for certain healthcare purposes. This law primarily bans phosphates
from household laundry detergents and non-healthcare-related commercial
Q. Who will enforce
A. The Department
of Environmental Protection <or your state’s
equivalent> has the authority to adopt regulations under
these acts. The department may exempt a substance if there are no
adequate substitutes for the cleaning agent as long as the phosphorus
content does not exceed 8.7 percent by weight.
Q. How else can
we reduce phosphorus pollution?
- Keep leaves, tree seeds, and lawn clippings out of gutters,
streets, and ditches.
- Clean lawn and garden equipment on the grass not on hard surfaces.
Never wash or blow soil or grass clippings into the street.
- Pick up pet waste promptly. Pet waste can contain harmful bacteria
as well as nutrients. Never drop pet waste in the street or ditches.
- Control soil erosion around homes. When left bare, soil is easily
washed away with rain, carrying phosphorus with it. Soil erosion
can be prevented by keeping soil covered with vegetation or mulch.