It is a common thing for us to make use of dishwasher detergents to clean our day-to-day utensils and kitchenware. If you check the labels properly, you will realize that almost all of them have phosphates as their main ingredients. These are compounds made up of phosphoric acid and salts, which act on the greasy and oily stains of food items and react with them in such a manner so that the stains come off the utensils. Because of this important function, phosphates have been used over and over by all detergent manufacturing companies to make their products better. However, as one cannot overlook the pollution created due to excessive use of such detergents, many states and cities have banned their use in dishwasher soaps.
Initially, the use of phosphates was not illegal. They were used in detergents mainly to make them more effective in stain removal. These dishwasher soaps have been approved by the government for commercial use for many years now. However, their use has created a plethora of ecological problems by polluting water bodies and reservoirs in which the dirty water is released.
Phosphate is not good when present in excess amounts in water. Used water goes in the local water bodies releasing the phosphates in the water. These chemicals are excellent for algal growth, which form a film on the water surface. If you check the streams, rivers, or lakes nearby and notice a thin film on the surface, that water has been polluted by the phosphates. This indirectly deteriorates the growth of fish and plants residing inside the water, mainly because the sunlight is hampered and the dissolved oxygen is used up by the algae growth itself, sparing very less amounts for the other aquatic flora and fauna.
Due to this, detergent companies are coming up with phosphate-free detergents. However, they have not proven as useful as the ones with phosphates, and there is no way to convince the masses, as they go for the products that are most effective. As a result, there are many who still prefer the phosphate detergents, and people using soaps not containing these chemicals are still very small in number. There have been many cities all over the world that have banned the use of phosphates where people have to follow the rules. An alternative could be to use homemade detergents for dishwasher.
Considering that phosphates are ruining the water ecosystem causing tremendous water pollution, avoiding their use is a better option. However, there is extensive research going on, so we can hope for an alternative which would work well for one and all.