The use of sodium tripolyphosphate (Na5P3O10, STPP), the most widely used detergent additive, has been identified as a significant contributor to eutrophication. STPP was first introduced in the US in 1946. After reaching a peak in the 1960s, global production has finally fallen down to one-half of the peak level, c. 1.0 MMT Pyr-1, mainly due to bans on phosphorus-containing detergents in developed countries. The total quantity of STPP production was estimated at 0.865 MMT P in 2004. In the late 1990s, phosphorus-free detergents accounted for 45%, 97%, and 100%, respectively, in the United States, Japan, and the European countries.
There has been a controversy on the environmental impacts of STPP since the mid-1980s. Today, it is acknowledged that limiting or banning household consumption ofphosphorus-containing detergents would not lead to a significant or a perceivable improvement of eutrophication. It would have little impact on water and human health compared to other substitute chemicals (sodium carbonates, sodium silicates or zeolites A, and sodium nitrilotriacetate), both from an ecological and an economic perspective. In parallel with these discoveries, some Nordic countries ecolabeled STPP as an environmentally friendly component of detergents in 1997, and have repromoted the production and consumption of STPP since then.
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