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Facial Scrub Microbead Ban May Be Issued in New York

New York may be the first state to ban the use of facial scrub microbeads in cosmetics, following a recent study that indicates there has been an accumulation of the small plastics in large quantities in lakes, waterways and oceans. 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has described the microbeads as a “threat to New York’s Great Lakes and other bodies of water.”

The Microbead-Free Waters Act bill was introduced on Tuesday, seeking to prohibit the production, manufacture, distribution and sale of products containing microbeads smaller than five millimeters in size.

The tiny beads of plastic are found in more than 100 consumer products, including facial soaps, scrubs and toothpaste.

Robert Sweeney (D-Suffolk) introduced the bill on Schneiderman’s behalf. If passed, New York will be the first state banning the use of microbeads.

“New York’s environmental leadership continues today with the introduction of common-sense legislation that will stop the flow of plastic from ill-designed beauty products into our vital waters, preserving our natural heritage for future generations,” said Schneiderman.

The bill was prompted by a recent study conducted at State University of New York (SUNY) at Fredonia and by 5 Gyres, a group which advocates against plastic pollution in oceans, lakes and rivers. The study was completed in 2012, examining the amount of plastic pollution in Laker Erie.

Researchers examined the “green sludge” found in the lake, expecting to find pieces of plastic from bottles and other waste. Instead, they found that nearly half of the waste consisted of tiny, brightly colored microbeads. After further investigation, researchers found the microbeads came from consumer products.

Due to their small size, the microbeads bypassed the sewage system and sewage treatment plants, winding up in bodies of water. The microbeads absorb other toxins, like PCBs, motor oils and insecticides.

The small plastic beads may then be eaten by fish, larger birds and other animals which humans eat, making their way into our food supply and causing widespread contamination.

“I never met anyone who has wanted plastic on their face or in their fish,” said Sweeney.

Some Manufacturers Already Phasing Out Microbeads

According to the bill, manufacturers would have until December 2015 to phase out the microbeads and replace them with other natural substances, such as salt or walnut pieces that are currently used in cosmetics.

Several major brands, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble ad Colgate-Palmolive, have pledged to eliminate microbeads from their products by 2015.

If the New York bill passes, the law may find its way to other cities looking to protect the rivers, lakes and oceans from this type of contaminant. So far only the Great Lakes have been thoroughly sampled, however testing recently began on the Los Angeles River.

According to the Los Angles Times, Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) plans to introduce a similar bill to California this week, making California the largest state to follow suit with New York on the environmental focused bill.

Photo Courtesy of Kunnskap via Wikimedia Commons C.C. by 3.0

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