Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Cost Of A Cleaner Environment: Dirtier Dishes

Economics tends to stress that life is full of tradeoffs. If you want to go to more Spurs games, you might have to go to fewer movies. If you want to eat more hamburgers, you might have to eat less pizza.

Now, an attempt to clean the water might mean dishes that aren't as clean as we would like. See the New York Times article Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes. Here is what happened:
"Responding to laws that went into effect in 17 states in July, the nation’s detergent makers reformulated their products to reduce what had been the crucial ingredient, phosphates, to just a trace."

So when people put their dishes in their dishwashers, they don't get as clean as they used to. The phosphates "...have long ended up in lakes and reservoirs, stimulating algae growth that deprives other plants and fish of oxygen." Other problems include "...chemicals and fragrances can pose respiratory and allergy problems as well as pollute waterways."

But consumers are starting to notice dirtier dishes coming out of their dishwashers and one of them remarked:
"“Low-phosphate dish detergents are a waste of my money,” said Thena Reynolds, a 55-year-old homemaker from Van Zandt County, Tex., who said she ran her dishwasher twice a day for a family of five. Now she has to do a quick wash of the dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher to make sure they come out clean, she said. “If I’m using more water and detergent, is that saving anything?” Ms. Reynolds said. “There has to be a happy medium somewhere.”" (See The Law Of Unintended Consequences)

But one expert said that you can get dishes clean with "vinegar, baking soda or the newer cleansers." At a hospital in New York, "Reports of burns, rashes, dizziness and scratchy throats among housekeeping employees have plummeted" as a result of the newer cleaning products.

I will leave the final word to Consumer Reports:
"But in its September issue, Consumer Reports reported that of 24 low- or phosphate-free dishwasher detergents it tested, including those from environmentally friendly product lines that have been on the market for years, none matched the performance of products with phosphates.

The magazine did note that the formulas were improving, and it rated seven detergents “very good,” including two of six Cascade products it tested. Susan Baba, a spokeswoman for Cascade, said that while most Cascade customers had not noticed any change, Procter & Gamble was modifying the formulas of some products in response to complaints."


rddulin said...

Glad to see your new postings. Haven't had time to read them carefully yet. Missed them over the summer. RDDulin

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for dropping by. Glad you like the blog. I don't post alot when I am not teaching.