EU Members Agree to Ban Phosphates from Household Detergents

The agreement by EU member states' representatives is intended to reduce phosphorus compounds found in wastewater and algae forming in Europe’s waters.

A final vote by the European Parliament is expected in mid-December to confirm a ban on phosphates in household detergents in EU member states. Member states' representatives agreed Nov. 15 to a proposal designed to reduce the use of phosphorus compounds in dishwasher and laundry detergents, with the goal of deterring algae formatino in Europe's lakes and streams.

The EU had threatened member states with possible sanctions. "Today's news that member states have accepted to extend the restriction on phosphorus to consumer automatic dishwasher detergents is a triumph," said Bill Newton Dunn, a UK member of the European Parliament. "Five months ago today, the Parliament's Environment Committee adopted my proposal for this extension because we believed it was a straightforward, effective, and cost-efficient way to make detergents, which are used every day in households across the EU, more environmentally friendly. I am delighted that five months later, the Council has finally been able to agree with us."

He indicated the regulation will lead to the harmonized national rules on the use of phosphate laundry and washing machine detergents. "As a consumer, I would like to choose the least harmful products where possible. Ensuring that in the future all detergents on supermarket shelves will contain only tiny amounts of phosphorus is one way to help achieve this goal," Newton Dunn said.

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