The answer to a question - dishwasher detergent

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We are running low on our tub of Costco dishwasher detergent. I remember a few years ago, Consumers Reports gave it a high rating and it works well for us -- we have very hard water so the choice of detergent is important. Anyway, I was in Costco and noticed that that particular detergent was no longer being sold. Didn't bother to ask why though. Well, now I know. From Florida's Tampa Bay Online/Associated Press:
Spokane residents smuggle suds over green brands
The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don't work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.

But it's not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green.

Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap.

As a result, there has been a quiet rush of Spokane-area shoppers heading east on Interstate 90 into Idaho in search of old-school suds.

Real estate agent Patti Marcotte of Spokane stocks up on detergent at a Costco in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and doesn't care who knows it.

"Yes, I am a smuggler," she said. "I'm taking my chances because dirty dishes I cannot live with."

(In truth, the ban applies to the sale of phosphate detergent - not its use or possession - so Marcotte is not in any legal trouble.)

Marcotte said she tried every green brand in her dishwasher and found none would remove grease and pieces of food. Everybody she knows buys dishwasher detergent in Idaho, she said.

Supporters of the ban acknowledge it is not very popular.

"I'm not hearing a lot of positive feedback," conceded Shannon Brattebo of the Washington Lake Protection Association, a prime mover of the ban. "I think people are driving to Idaho."
This is a perfect example of the same sort of nanny-statism that caused the ban on DDT. Sure, in the 1960's we were marinating in it. It was cheap, effective and safe to mammals. We just didn't know the relationship with it and bird eggshells and the concept of beneficial insects. Same with Phosphates -- people used to buy pure TriSodium Phosphate for trivial cleaning operations -- driveway a bit dirty, patio furniture have a spot of grunge? Put a pound or two of TSP in a bucket of hot water and get to work. All of that went into a storm drain and into a lake or groundwater. Use less and use effectively. DDT could prevent over a million deaths each year from malaria if used with an education program and used sparingly. Phosphates can be used effectively for a trivial task of washing dishes and other, safer cleaners can be used for outdoors and bulk use. (The Oxygen cleaners are a perfect, albeit more expensive replacement.) I sometimes go up to the Abbotsford, BC Costco -- I'll have to see if they carry the good old kind...

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But, the "nanny statism" dealing with DDT was right. Turns out DDT is deadly, to mammals, too, but especially to birds and beneficial small wildlife.

So, what are arguing? Do you think people should work to keep waterways healthy or not?

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on March 28, 2009 11:25 AM.

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