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Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will fund new research into soil and water pollution from products such as fabric softeners, washing powders and disinfectants. [HL979]

Defra is about to commission further research which aims to identify the contaminants present in wastes (including sewage sludge) spread to land and the sources of these contaminants.

Some of the chemicals contained in products such as fabric softeners, washing powders and disinfectants may reach soils via the application of sewage sludge to land. Our previous research into the risks from sewage sludge application to land did not highlight significant issues arising from organic chemicals from these sources.

In April 2008, Defra consulted on controls on phosphates in domestic laundry cleaning products, as there is evidence that phosphate pollution in freshwaters causes eutrophication which can lead to death of fish and other organisms. Following the consultation, a working group of key stakeholders was set up to provide evidence for a full impact assessment. An announcement on the way forward will be made shortly.

The consultation considered washing powders, but did not consider fabric softeners and disinfectants, as they do not contain significant amounts of phosphate and there is insufficient evidence to suggest that they cause significant pollution of watercourses.