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Lawmakers, industry unite against microbeads in cosmetics

May 22, 2014
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microbeads <photocredit>Wikipedia Commons/Kunnskap</photocredit>

Several U.S. states have moved to introduce legislation that bans the use of microbeads in personal care products, such as facial scrubs and shower gels. Research on microbeads has linked the tiny plastic particles to water contamination and aquatic wildlife poisoning, and their use in cosmetics is being voluntarily phased out by many manufacturers.

But states including Illinois, California and Ohio have decided that voluntary steps are not good enough and are planning to impose a ban on microbeads. The state of New York already passed legislation to stop the plastic particles from being used in personal care products. The move has been welcomed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which issued a statement to express its support for the measure. The ACC is committed to preventing plastics from polluting waterways and becoming marine debris, so it fully backs efforts to promote responsible use and handling of those materials, the statement said.

According to studies, plastic microbeads are too small to be picked by water and wastewater treatment plants. They can last in the environment for over 100 years and during that time they carry toxins into waterways and into animals that ingest the particles. In many cases, fish, mussels and crabs consumed by people are also affected, so the toxins are transferred into humans as well. Academics have already warned of high levels of microbeads in the Great Lakes of North America, the Independent reported.

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