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Archive for December, 2010

Mysterious White Powder Shows Up In American Kitchens

Posted by Rayne Water

Cascade, Electrasol, Colgate-Palmolive. We’re talking dishwasher detergent, white film, and frustration this week. Perhaps you noticed things changed last summer – your dishes started coming out of the dishwasher looking worse than when you put them in – but you weren’t sure why. All over the country, consumers replaced dishwashers, yelled at their water utility companies, and started using vinegar by the gallon to clean away the crusty film. And here, all along, it was just our dishwasher detergent – our new phosphate-free dishwasher detergent.

Phosphates act like a fertilizer. Once they enter the water cycle, they cause extreme algae and aquatic weed growth in lakes, rivers, and streams – to the point where the algae depletes the oxygen in the water needed for healthy fish and aquatic life. While septic systems and municipal water treatment facilities remove the majority of this substance, a small amount still makes it into the environment, and that’s just enough to turn our lakes green, kill the fish, and shut down our beaches.

As of June 2010, 16 states had banned the sale of high-phosphate-containing cleaners. Some areas had made this move as early as 2007, but that only caused residents to drive across state lines or turn to the internet to purchase contraband dishwasher detergent. Now, with the increasing attention and so many states disallowing their products, most of the large detergent manufacturers have changed their formulations, rather than offer different formulas for different states.

The problem is these new formulas simply don’t work as well as the old phosphate-containing detergents. Even one load of dishes through this new detergent can leave a white film so thick it can be scraped off. Phosphates were historically used in dishwashers because they remove hard water stains and grease – the whole purpose of using a dishwasher! Unfortunately, there is currently no satisfactory replacement for phosphate. If you live in an area with soft water, you may not notice the same problems as most of the country because science has been more successful in finding environmentally friendly grease-cutters than water-softening agents. For those of us with hard water, well, we’re left scratching our heads… or our scum-encrusted dishes as it were.

What can we do? Well, many folks report adding vinegar to every load of dishes. Others purchase dishwasher detergent additives with high levels of citric acid. The most satisfying solution is to invest in soft water so that your dishwasher detergent – and all of your other cleaners for that matter – can work better. A whole-house water softener removes the dissolved calcium, magnesium, and manganese before these compounds can get to your dishes and stick. Not only will the detergent work better, you will need to use less of it!

Probable Carcinogen Invades Water Sources

Posted by Rayne Water

Sounds like it could be the title of a new sci-fi movie right? A title like this cannot and will not be ignored by American consumers. According to one article, 35 cities in the US have traces of hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen, as is reported in the Washington Post. In 25 of those cities, the amount of the chemical exceeds government goals which were proposed in California. California has been aggressively and quickly trying to reduce the presence of hexavalent chromium in its water supply. This carcinogen was made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich.

The study was done by the Environmental Working Group and is the first nationwide analysis of this toxic chemical. The group found the presence of the chemical in 31 of 35 different tests in those respective cities and as mentioned previously, 25 of those cities had levels exceeding any propositions. The Environmental Protection Agency is still determining if and what levels should be set for hexavalent chromium in tap water. It was determined to be a probable carcinogen in 2008.

It is reported that hexavalent chromium has been known to cause lung cancer for quite some time when it is inhaled, and more recently, evidence shows it is cancer causing in laboratory animals when ingested. It has also been linked to liver and kidney damage, along with leukemia, stomach cancer, and other cancers when tested on animals. Hexavalent chromium was popularly used in industries in the early 1990s, and is still found in industries creating chrome plating or plastics and dyes. It can get into groundwater from natural sources, making it into tap water.

In California, as was documented in the popular movie listed above, Hinkley was the affected town. But as stated in a document by the Clean Water Fund, “according to the Department of Public Health, from 1997 through 2008 chromium VI was detected in 2,208 California drinking water sources monitored for the contaminant. These sources are spread throughout 52 out of 58 counties, impacting an estimated 33 million Californians.” According to Emagazine, Riverside, California had one of the highest levels out there.

The only true way to find out if your local water source has hexavalent chromium is to check with your local public water supplier and request a water quality report with the quantitative analysis of chemicals or other minerals in your drinking water. Taja Marhaba is a professor and the chair of civil and environmental engineering and director of the New Jersey Applied Water Research Center at NJIT. In one interview in regards to this toxic chemical in drinking water, he stated, “the best way to remove this [hexavalent chromium] and other known and unknown contaminants from the water supply to a residence if to install a five-stage reverse osmosis home unit.”