Sometimes I feel like there's something new I'm supposed to be afraid of and limit my exposure to every time I listen to the radio or read 'green labeling.' Once I decided to commit to becoming greener in a year I started reading every label of every green product I was introducing into my home. Sometimes a product advertises how it's 'organic' or 'plant-based' or 'natural' and I wonder 1. What does that mean? (if anything) and 2. To what extent are their claims true? When looking at 'green' cleaners and detergents I kept seeing the statement phosphate free and wasn't sure if this was a good thing to look for or a bogus ploy to get my dollars. What are phosphates and why should I care if they are in my home?
My research is now being passed onto you :)
There are three types of phosphates that you find in nature: orthophosphate, metaphosphate (or polyphosphate) and organically bound phosphates. Some phosphates are o.k. to have in water systems (the naturally occurring ones that come from rocks and normal organic decay) however, when humans add too many phosphates to water systems it throws the lake, river, or pond's ecosystem out of balance.
Phosphates in waterways encourages growth of plankton which is a food for other organisms. By adding too much phosphates (through water run-off from household sewage and agriculture) the water becomes 'nutrient rich' and eutrophication occurs (when the basic food production is so high that everything becomes unstable because the production and consumption cycle is sped up). When this happens - clear water becomes overrun with algae etc. and the lake starts to turn into a swamp. The algae and other organisms suffocate the already present marine life by blocking out sunlight and consuming space and nutrient. This effectively 'ages' the lake and brings it closer to the end of its life-cycle.
So when a product claims to be phosphate free - that's a good thing! Laundry detergents, dish soap, household cleansers can all contain unnecessary phosphate (as well as a host of other terrible things - but one thing at a time eh?) that the consumer unwittingly passes on whenever they pour it into the water system. And water treatment plants do not remove phosphates before they introduce water back into the environment! I am going to eliminate phosphates from my consumption. This is an easy and inexpensive change because I can 1. create some of my own cleaners and 2. purchase phosphate free products that are the same or only slightly more than their counterparts.
My first purchase is Nature clean eco refill unscented laundry liquid. http://www.naturecleanliving.com/eco_refill This is a phosphate free detergent but it is also free of sulphates (another post, another time), optical brighteners, and perfumes and dyes. It is safe for my children and the packaging is cool! 85% less plastic! (bag in box and concentrated formula) Unbleached outer box made mostly (70%) post consumer content! Leaping Bunny certified! (see earlier post) And finally - made in my own country! I am so happy I could use exclamation marks in excess!