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European Union: Draft Regulation Prohibiting Use of Phosphates in Laundry Detergents

(Nov. 8, 2010) On November 4, 2010, the European Commission made public a proposal for a regulation to introduce a ban on the use of phosphates and phosphate compounds in laundry detergents, in order to limit the amount of phosphates found in waste water and to improve the overall quality of water in rivers and lakes.

Phosphates, which are used to soften hard water and promote efficient cleaning of wastes when discharged into water in large amounts, have a negative impact on the quality of water, causing algae to multiply to an unsustainable level for other aquatic life. Scientists call this phenomenon “eutrophication,” or more commonly “red tides” or “green tides.” The accumulation of phosphates must be removed through expensive chemical or biological processes, and some industrial plants located in the European Union lack the necessary tools to carry out the removal processes. (Press Release, IP/10/1465, RAPID, European Commission Proposes to Ban Phosphates in Laundry Detergents (Nov. 4, 2010),

The draft regulation aims to harmonize the standards on phosphates across the EU, because some EU Member States already have restrictions in place with differing limits on the amount of phosphate use, while others leave it to the discretion of domestic detergent manufacturers. If passed, the regulation will become effective on January 1, 2012. (Id.)