A bag of fertilizer with no phosphorus

Phosphorus ban in fertilizers

Phosphorus is needed by all plants. It is an important component in photosynthesis; however, high levels of any nutrient are dangerous to the environment. The phosphorus ban in fertilizers was initiated in the Great Lake states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. Since the ban was placed and research done, states have been noticing a decrease of phosphorus in the water supplies.  In July of 2010, Illinois passed a law 415 ILCS 65/5a banning the use of phosphorous in fertilizer.



When water runoff or product runoff filter into the water systems it can contribute to the growth of algae and often times toxic algae. This runoff occurs from watering product into the soil, product beings spilled or product being washed away by rainfall or melting snow and ice. The phosphorus is then transferred into the sewer system filtered into natural water supplies such as lakes, rivers and creeks.

An increase of phosphorus and other nutrients into the water supplies destroys the natural habitat. Algae blooms become toxic; water clarity is reduced and oxygen levels depleted. Any or all of these factors affect the fish and other aquatic creatures causing sickness and death. Also, when the water supply is compromised, so are other animals and humans. Animals within that habitat will also drink off the contaminated water supply causing sickness and death. When livestock fall ill, farmers suffer as does the human race. Prices are increased; disease increases among meats and damage is done to crops.

Odors and insects are also concerns when water supplies are compromised. An increase in water odor can lead to illness to those around it and it becomes a breeding ground for insects. Mosquitoes enjoy laying eggs in standing, undisturbed water. Without fish and birds around this water, it becomes the perfect location for their larva. An increase in mosquitoes becomes a concern with problems such as West Nile Virus.


Currently, this ban affects 11 states across the United States. Along with Illinois, those who have banned phosphorus in fertilizers are Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Other states have restrictions to the use of phosphorus without banning it completely.

Like many other states, in Illinois there are a few minor exemptions that allow certain industries to use phosphorus in their lawn care. For example, golf courses and sod farms are able to use phosphorus but are on strict guidelines of the state such as remaining a minimum of 3 feet away of water sources when applying. It is also prohibited to use on saturated or frozen ground to avoid the risk of runoff. Also, if a soil test determines a lack of phosphorous then phosphorous can be applied to a lawn as a corrective measure. Farmers are exempt from this ban as well.

Sum it up

To sum it up, phosphorus is necessary for plant growth but too much of it is harmful to the environment. Checking with your states department of agriculture website can inform you on any restrictions or bans in your area.

It is always a good idea to consult with a lawn care professional and ask any questions you may have. Look around, ask friends or family, and research companies on the Better Business Bureau to find a company that you can trust.

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