Against this back drop the Industry fought against any out right prohibitionof phosphate in detergents. There was also particular concern that diverse localregulations would create a patchwork of maximum phosphate standards amongcommunities and states. The Industry tried to avoid any conflict by voluntarilyagreeing to reduce detergent phosphorus concentrations to 8.7% in 1970 (Duthie1972). This was considered only a first step by the general public. The Industrytried to prevent (or at least deter until an adequate phosphate-substitute wasidentified) legislation against phosphates in detergents more or lesssimultaneously on 1) a national level arguing scientific and policy grounds, and2) on more local levels arguing against the legality of municipal and statephosphate bans or restrictions.
By 1971 municipalities in several states (Connecticut, Florida, Indiana,Maine, Michigan and New York) had enacted laws limiting detergent phosphoruscontent to 8.7% (ReVelle and ReVelle 1988). This was the same upper level thatdetergent manufacturers had voluntarily agreed to maintain. What concerned theIndustry more, however, were municipalities in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, NewYork, Vermont and Wisconsin which passed legislation completely banningphosphates from detergents (ReVelle and ReVelle 1988).
The Industry was eventually forced to fight for its interests in the publicforum, and in the end probably the best results were attained. Although statesand communities may regulate phosphate concentrations as they deem necessary toprotect local environments, regional regulations like Pennsylvania's seemed tohave struck an acceptable balance between protecting the aquatic environment(you can now swim in Lake Erie without slipping on mats of green slime),protecting the citizens' health and welfare, and not burdening the detergentmanufacturers and phosphate producers unreasonably with blanket prohibitions. Inthe final analysis both sides seemed to fair well. Phosphates can be legallybanned in localities wishing to implement such legislation to protect regionalaquatic environments. And the Industry is apparently able to exceed even theirearlier voluntary limit of 8.7% phosphorus ("P" Tide has 10.9%) intheir pursuit of giving homemakers whiter and brighter clothes.
According to a recent , some consumers are getting their feathers ruffled as detergent manufacturers re-do their formulas to comply with state laws. The primary complaint is that the phosphate-free detergents don’t clean as well as traditional formulas. : of 24 low- or no-phosphate detergents tested, none matched the cleaning capabilities of detergents with phosphates. It may be uncomfortable at first, but learning to cope in a low-phosphorus world is already having environmental and human health benefits.