Environment: Return of the Phosphates

The surprise announcement was made last week by four key federal agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency, Public Health Service, Food and Drug Administration and Council on Environmental Quality—and was best summarized by U.S. Surgeon General Jesse L. Steinfeld: "My advice to the housewife at this time is to use a phosphate detergent."

Dangerous Compounds. If the housewife is confused by that advice, she has good reason. For several years, various federal agencies have joined ecologists in stressing that phosphates can cause grave environmental damage. Pouring in a sudsy torrent from washing machines, detergents now...

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