Chemical safety

The phosphates used in detergents are known to be safe. They have been used for over 50 years without problems by millions of householders.

Detergent phosphates are mineral polyphosphates, the most widely used being sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP). They are made up of a number of the natural phosphate building block PO4 combined with mineral salt (STPP = 3 phosphate blocks and sodium, from table salt). Tripolyphosphates are found naturally in cells in many organisms, as are enzymes to break them down to orthophosphates for metabolism.

Indeed, polyphosphates, including STPP, are authorised food and pharmaceutical ingredients (US, EU …) and are widely used to improve human food products conservation and properties, and to improve the nutritional value of animal feeds. Again polyphosphates have shown no known negative effects.

Detergent phosphates (STPP) was one of the pilot test dossiers under REACH (the European Chemical Regulation) and the completed Registration Dossier was submitted in February 2010.
The Dossier can be consulted on the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) webstie, refer to the EC number for STPP = 231-838-7 ["ECHA"]

A targeted risk assessment of STPP, carried out under the HERA project by the European detergent industry AISE and the European Chemical Council Cefic concluded that the product’s use is not a risk for human health and does not risk toxicity for the environment.
à MORE ["HERA report"]

In the wash water, sewage and in natural ecosystems, detergent phosphates break down rapidly, by hydrolysis, to give the simple soluble phosphate PO4, the same as from the breakdown of human and animal urine and excrement, food wastes and other organic materials in waste waters. This natural molecule is not considered toxic, but is a fertiliser, so that detergent phosphates, along with phosphates from man’s metabolism and other sources, can contribute to “eutrophication” problems, that is excessive growth of plants and algae in water.
à MORE [“Eutrophication” ]

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