Antonio Tajani, the industrial commissioner and vice president of the European Commission, said he was proposing a ban on the use of phosphates and phosphate-containing compounds in laundry detergents in the EU.
"The commission's proposal to ban phosphates in laundry detergents will ensure that European citizens benefit from an increased water quality of their lakes, rivers and marine waters while keeping European companies at the forefront of this sector," he said in a statement.
Phosphates discharged into waters create algae blooms, or eutrophication, that could deplete oxygen levels. Detergents are the third-greatest source of phosphates after agriculture and sewage.
"It is in the interest of the European Union and of its neighboring countries that EU water quality is as high as possible and that eutrophication is avoided," the commission said.
The draft regulation doesn't include phosphates used in detergents for automatic dishwashers.
Most member states have their own regulations on phosphates, though Tajani's measure entails EU-wide legislation.