15 December 2010

Dish Soap Secretly Reformulated

This summer, detergent makers took phosphates out of their detergents. Seventeen states banned phosphates from dishwasher detergents because the chemical compounds also pollute lakes, bays and streams. They create algae blooms and starve fish of oxygen.

The result is a noticable reduction in the effectiveness of dishwashers at getting dishes clean.

I understand the importance of reducing the amount of toxic material that goes into our waterways. Apparently, they were removed from laundry detergents years ago. We will learn to live without them. I also understand that it can be commercially impracticable to offer different versions of a mass produced consumer product in different states.

But, it is really unconscionable for Procter and Gamble and other dishwasher detergent companies to make a major reformulation of a product used by many tens of millions of people every day that significantly changes its functionality for the consumer without boldly and prominently disclosing that to the general public. This should have been something that everyone knew about before it happened and that everyone with a dishwasher was innundated with suggestions for adjusting their daily habits to managing. Instead, no one I know was aware that this had happened until today, several months after the change took place. Many people, like the woman interviewed for the story, simply started to see a change in how clean their dishes were coming out of the dishwasher and assumed that their dishwasher was broken.

The cardinal rule for managing change is to do so democratically. You need to involve everyone affected and everyone needs to know about it. Not everyone has to agree. But, everyone needs to know and have an opportunity to comment.

Living in a large metropolitan area, my life is full is mysteries and half finished bits of stories. An ambulance rushes bye to some emergency that will change someone's life forever, but will never receive even a paragraph's mention in the newspaper or TV news. You overhear an intense conversation on a light rail trip that never gets resolved. Businesses in your neighborhood open and close without explanation. My daughter's middle school was locked down this morning based upon a threat that was received yesterday, according to a Robocall that I received from the Denver Public Schools this morning. But, I'll probably never hear another word about what happened or why.

Only a true policy wonk can personally have any real sense of what is contained in the roughly six hundred bills introduced in the Colorado General Assembly every year, all of which are processed in a short 120 day session, and it is a real challenge to follow even the bills in one committee despite live Internet feeds of committee procedings and online bill status indexes updated daily. Ad city council and Congress, and one can only hope that intermediaries that you trust will tell you how the laws are changing. And, I have the privilege of living in Denver where the structure of the government is far more streamlined than it is in most places because we have a conslidated city and county government with a school district that has contiguous boundaries.

But, when something actually does directly change your life, even in little ways, you would really like to know what is going on.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

Months ago, I noticed that an aluminum pan was extremely discolored.
It took an exchange of 5 emails with consumer support at P&G to get them to admit they had changed the formula.