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The Green Life: Soap Opera: Cleaner or Greener?

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September 28, 2010

Soap Opera: Cleaner or Greener?

IStock_000011921003XSmall "Clean" can be such a dirty word. Like most products, cleaning agents are being passed through a scrutinizing filter to determine what their environmentally detrimental ingredients may be. As luck would have it, most are rife with phosphates, chemicals containing phosphorus that pollute water sources and have caused burns, rashes, and dizziness to humans with prolonged exposure.

Naturally, if phosphates are removed from cleaning products such as dish detergent, they could be green enough to exist in our era. However, wouldn't removing the very aspect of the product that cleans make it somewhat useless? As products begin evolving for a greener era, the very notion of what constitutes "clean" may have to be redefined altogether

Cascade's website was recently flooded with angry comments; customers all over the country were reporting that their dishes had hardly been cleaned after going through a cycle. In fact, some of them came out even dirtier.

This was due to the amount of phosphates in Cascade being reduced from around 8.7% to 0.5%. While consumers may complain this isn't getting the job done, and in turn, causing them to use more water and energy to clean dishes a second time, there is also health risk involved. The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation reported that 54 employee sick days at the North Central Bronx Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center were directly correlated with phosphate-heavy cleaning agents in 2004. In 2009, after a period of people using greener versions of the products, there were zero.

While the effect on reducing water pollution is somewhat minimal, experts say that a limited amount of phosphates in detergents is a positive step, as any progress is progress. Developing an environmentally sound equivalent to phosphates requires a combination of three or four other agents, the testing of which will take time. But temporarily, at least, this will lead to products not performing as well.

--Justin Klugh

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