“We have to make sure that Congress passes this ban on microbeads, because microbeads have already caused significant ecological damage to the Great Lakes region, and they will continue to do so until they are removed from the marketplace,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“These plastic particles fill the water, attract pollutants, and harm not only fish and birds, but the people in this region who rely on them for food and wellbeing. Banning harmful plastic microbeads is the best solution to this damaging environmental problem.”
In Gillibrand’s official communication of her stand on microbeads, she underlined that the target products are all from the personal care category, specifically facial scrubs, body washes, hand cleansers, and toothpaste.
Studies prove extent of pollution in Great Lakes region
She also cited recent reports identifying thousands of plastic particles per square kilometer in Lake Erie and up to 1.1 million particles per square kilometer in Lake Ontario – pollution, she says, is coming from the personal care products once they are rinsed down the drain.
Because they are not biodegradealbe, the resulting pollution could have a devastating effect on recreational fishing industry, tourism industry, and the general economic well-being of the entire region.
“Plastic microbeads can accumulate toxic chemicals and be consumed by fish and wildlife. They are unnecessarily polluting New York’s waters, wildlife and threatening public health,” said Sarah Eckel, legislative and policy director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who has been campaigning alongside Senator Gillibrand.
“Safer, bio-degradable, non-polluting alternatives to plastic microbeads are readily available and cost effective.”
Is this the end for microbeads?
Legislative moves to ban microbeads in personal care formulations are also in motion in the states of Illinois and California, which could ultimately make this environmentally toxic ingredient a thing of the past.
In June Illinois became the first State to put in motion a ban on microbeads in personal care formulations, by using scientific data to prove that lakes and waterways in the state were being polluted by the tiny beads of plastic, which are not biodegradeable.
State law now proposes that no personal care product containing microbeads can be sold beyond 2018, with a complete ban by 2019.
Likewise, the New York Assembly has also led the way, passing legislation for the state of New York that proposes a phase-out deadline of 2015.
However, in California a bill to ban microbeads failed in August of this year because if fell short of the legislative majority. Plans are currently underway to resubmit the bill for another vote.