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FAQ Dish Detergent Law

What is the law?

The law amends Article 35 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law.

What does the law require?

  • For household use

Effective August 14, 2010, dishwasher detergents for household use that contain phosphorus may not be distributed, sold, offered or exposed for sale in New York State.

  • For commercial establishments

Effective July 1, 2013, commercial establishments in New York State may not possess or use or authorize (e.g. service contract or other arrangement) the possession or use of dishwasher detergents that contain phosphorus.

What trace amounts of phosphorus are allowed in dish detergent after those effective dates?

0.5% elemental phosphorus by weight or less.

What is a "commercial establishment"?

Article 35, (Detergents and other Household Cleansing Products), subsection-0103 of the Environmental Conservation Law defines "Commercial establishment" as follows:

"Commercial establishment" means any premises used for the purpose of carrying on or exercising any trade, business, profession, vocation, or commercial or charitable activity, including but not limited to laundries, hospitals, and food or restaurant establishments.

This definition remains unchanged with the amended law.

Who will be affected by the law?

  • Manufacturers, retailers and distributors of dishwashing detergents
  • Homeowners, commercial establishments

Why is it important to address phosphorus in waters of the State?

Phosphorus has been linked to reductions in oxygen necessary for fish to breathe. Algae and algae byproducts also degrade drinking water.

What are the costs associated with phosphorus in waters of the State?

Since phosphorus can degrade water quality, water with excessive phosphorus that is used for drinking may need additional treatment. Phosphorus is also expensive for municipalities to remove from wastewater at the wastewater treatment plant; approximately $1 to $20 per pound.
Additionally, New York State administers State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits for stormwater discharges from construction sites, municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) and industrial facilities. Those permits require development and implementation of plans to reduce pollutant discharges.

The control of pollutants, like phosphorus, at their source is a cost-effective way to reduce pollutants in stormwater.

Why the current focus on dishwasher detergent?

While automatic dishwasher detergent with phosphorus is not the only source of phosphorus, the prohibition on its use is an efficient way to reduce phosphorus in waters of the State, and thus to save the municipal tax dollars that would be required to comply with storm water discharge permit requirements that require phosphorus reductions.

Many States already have laws prohibiting phosphorus in automatic dishwashing detergent, and dishwashing detergent is available that works effectively without phosphorus.

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