In response to Funny’s recent rant about phosphate-free detergents, reader Linda responded with this observation:
So, I did some more searching online and I found this site that went over several options. http://www.jillcataldo.com/phosphatedetergents With a little more searching, I found that I could buy the commercial (phosphate-full) Cascade at a chain called Gordon Food Service that had some outlets in my area. Since the BF had an appointment not far from one today, I asked him to pick up a box. We had a pretty full dishwasher, so he gave it a test run today while I was at work. Success!! 🙂
So I went over to Jill’s blog and found a truly awesome discussion, complete with details of experiments with various products and photos. Interestingly, she reports that recent science indicates that phosphates are not the environmental menace we’ve been made to believe they are:
A Minnesota study determined that the amount of phosphates generated from home use that were actually reaching bodies of fresh water was about 1.9%. And, in 2011, the University of Washington released a study that determined that phosphorous runoff from detergents, even when discharged directly into the Spokane River, never worked as an algae fertilizer: “Effluents making their way into the river contained phosphorus in complex molecular forms which are not bioavailable. Algae lack the enzymes necessary to break down this phosphorus, meaning it is essentially harmless.”*
*But see comments below and update for the full story on this statement.
Basically what’s happening here is we’re all being made to do without something that works for questionable reasons.
Not quite all of us: it’s OK to inconvenience the hoi polloi and put families’ health at risk by making them eat off dirty dishes, but it’s not OK to inconvenience corporate America: real detergent is still freely available to those who use it in vast quantities: restaurants, hotels, and institutions.
Jill also includes a long list of links to articles proving her point on this matter.
For me, the TSP used in small quantities (not more than 1/4 teaspoon) is working, although it certainly is a nuisance to have to scrub its stain off the inside of the dishwasher door. And most of a lifetime supply of Finish
Powerless Powerball detergent tabs resides on my storage shelves. So I’ll probably finish off the Finish and then buy some of the Professional Line Cascade, since Jill’s tests seem to indicate it works very well.
Just checked and discovered the Costco box of Finish hasn’t been opened yet!
w00t! Back it goes!
I’m taking that back to the store TODAY and ordering up some actual detergent for restaurants. The city has several restaurant supply houses, one of which is on my way to a Costco — if they carry commercial dishwasher detergent, I’ll stop there to pick it up. Otherwise: order it online!
Update: Given that Jill takes the quote from the University of Washington study out of context, thereby making it seem to draw a different conclusion than what the report actually presents, let’s take a look at a few lines from the Avatar of Scientific Accuracy, the beloved Wikipedia:
It is unclear what causes HABs [harmful algae blooms]; their occurrence in some locations appears to be entirely natural, while in others they appear to be a result of human activities. Furthermore, there are many different species of algae that can form HABs, each with different environmental requirements for optimal growth. The frequency and severity of HABs in some parts of the world have been linked to increased nutrient loading from human activities. In other areas, HABs are a predictable seasonal occurrence resulting from coastal upwelling, a natural result of the movement of certain ocean currents. The growth of marine phytoplankton (both non-toxic and toxic) is generally limited by the availability of nitrates and phosphates, which can be abundant in coastal upwelling zones as well as in agricultural run-off. The type of nitrates and phosphates available in the system are also a factor, since phytoplankton can grow at different rates depending on the relative abundance of these substances (e.g. ammonia, urea, nitrate ion). A variety of other nutrient sources can also play an important role in affecting algal bloom formation, including iron, silica or carbon. Coastal water pollution produced by humans and systematic increase in sea water temperature have also been suggested as possible contributing factors in HABs. Other factors such as iron-rich dust influx from large desert areas such as the Sahara are thought to play a role in causing HABs. Some algal blooms on the Pacific coast have also been linked to natural occurrences of large-scale climatic oscillations such as El Niño events. While HABs in the Gulf of Mexico have been occurring since the time of early explorers such as Cabeza de Vaca, it is unclear what initiates these blooms and how large a role anthropogenic and natural factors play in their development. It is also unclear whether the apparent increase in frequency and severity of HABs in various parts of the world is in fact a real increase or is due to increased observation effort and advances in species identification technology.
Sources for this paragraph are as follows:
Sellner, K.G.; Doucette G.J., and Kirkpatrick G.J. (2003). “Harmful Algal blooms: causes, impacts and detection”. Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology 30 (7): 383–406. doi:10.1007/s10295-003-0074-9. PMID 12898390
Van Dolah, F.M. (2000). “Marine Algal Toxins: Origins, Health Effects, and Their Increased Occurrence”. Environmental Health Perspectives (Brogan &) 108 (suppl.1): 133–141. doi:10.2307/3454638. JSTOR 3454638. PMC 1637787. PMID 10698729.
Clearly, this is a very complex issue. Algal blooms, some of them toxic and some of them leading to eutrophication, have been happening since the memory of Person runneth not to the contrary…and certainly since long before any upright ape figured out how to make soap. That doesn’t mean your dishwasher isn’t suffocating the nearest lake. But it does cast some doubt.