Phosphate in detergent...
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Phosphate in detergents and in dishwashing powder

Detergent and dishwashing powder quantities


Graph. Detergent and dishwashing powder quantities during 1997 to 2010.

Source: Products Register, KemI.

131 companies have reported that they manufactured or imported detergents for washing textiles during 2010. The total amount used was about 50,000 tonnes of detergents of which 83 per cent was imported. There were 640 different detergents during this year out of which 261 were intended for consumers. The latter products account for 87 per cent of all detergents.

Dishwasher powder was imported or manufactured by 74 companies. There were 288 different dishwasher powders of which 71 were sold to households. About 50 per cent of the dishwasher powder amount, 7,000 tonnes, was intended for industrial use.


Sodium tripolyphosphate in detergents and dishwasher powders

Graph. Sodium tripolyphosphate in detergents and dishwasher powders.

Source: Products Register, KemI.

Phosphate is used in a detergent to bind calcium and magnesium ions. These would otherwise bind to the tensides that are intended to dissolve dirt and the tensides thus lose their action. Phosphate also prevents dirt from getting stuck on the washing goods and to form lime deposits in the washing machine. It is what is called a softener or builder.

Phosphate is a nutritient for algae and other plants when washing water is released to lakes and streams. During the end of the 1980s the annual use of sodium tripolyphosphate by Swedish households was estimated to be over 12,000 tonnes. In many detergents phosphates have since then been substituted by other softeners, for example carboxylates like citrates and gluconates or by zeolites.


Number of detergents classified as dangerous to health

Graph. Number of detergents classified as dangerous to health.

Source: Products Register, KemI.

Sodium tripolyphosphate is neither dangerous to health nor to the environment. However, other ingredients in a detergent can make the product irritating in contact with skin or eyes. Many more detergents than a few years ago are now labelled with a warning of this danger.

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