Ban on phosphates in detergents good news for environment

14 December 2011

A European Parliament vote which has outlawed the use of phosphates in laundry and dishwasher detergents has been hailed as a victory for the environment by Yorkshire and the Humber's Labour MEP Linda McAvan.

The wide use of phosphates in detergents has led to dramatic increases in the amounts of damaging algae in rivers, lakes and seas across Britain and Europe. High levels of phosphates are responsible for a process called eutrophication which means excessive amounts of algae produce too much bacteria and not enough oxygen leading to an ecosystem’s aquatic plant life and fish being killed off.

The damage some algae can cause was illustrated over the summer at Burton Riggs nature reserve, near Scarborough, when three dogs died after appearing to come into contact with high levels of toxins produced by algae in a lake.

Linda McAvan said: ”The evidence that phosphates our damaging to our environment is absolutely clear and I am delighted the European Parliament has voted in favour of introducing these strong measures, bringing to an end the use of detergents in both dishwasher and laundry detergents.”

The original proposal for the new rules on phosphates was to ban its use only in laundry detergents but Linda and other Labour MEPs successfully campaigned for the rules to be extended to dishwasher detergents too.

Linda commented: “There was originally some concern that the there was simply no alternative to phosphates for dishwasher detergents but the USA has already introduced a ban and consequently alternatives are rapidly progressing. There is no longer any excuse not to follow suit and the European Parliament’s vote today is a real victory for our environment whether it is a small stream, the North Sea or local lakes and rivers.”

Items to note:

  • Linda is the spokersperson on the environment for Labour and the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament
  • The ban on phosphates in laundry detergents will be implemented by 30th June 2013.
  • Phosphates in dishwasher detergents will be banned by 2017.

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