Lots of familiar skin care products and even toothpastes, soaps and cosmetics are likely to be affected by a new federal law which bans plastic microbeads from these types of personal care products.
US President Barack Obama singed into law a few days ago a bill that was passed by Congress and intended to keep these microbeads from polluting waterways like the Great Lakes. The problem is that the tiny particles from the microbeads can be consumed by marine life and birds.
New York state is not waiting for this law to take effect in 2017. For instance, Wegmans already said last week that they will not be stocking microbead personal care products at every one of its stores beginning in early 2016.
Wegmans made this decision after Erie County passed their own ban on microbeads early this year. It is saying that the products it will take out of the stores include brands such as eight different types of Crest toothpaste. Also there are personal care skin care products from huge brands like Garnier, Olay, Neutrogena, and Aveeno that are being removed from all of the Wegmans stores effective almost immediately.
Clean & Clear, a popular brand of over the counter acne medication is also being removed from Wegmans. There is an updated list of cosmetics that contain these microbeads on the iPhone app called “Beat the Microbead”. There are also body washes and toothpastes listed that contain the microbeads and other synthetic particles.
Kirsten Gillibrand, a US Senator from New York, was the one who sponsored this Senate bill. It passed with overwhelming support. Additionally, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was behind the push for an outright state ban on microbeads in personal care products.
In April there was a report published by Schneiderman about microbeads in the water. The results were scary as microbeads were found in the water being discharged by sewage treatment plants. That is, 25 of the 34 sewage treatment plants were discharging microbeads and this was flowing directly in to the Great Lakes. The Finger Lakes are also being contaminated by microbeads.
The major problem with these microbeads being in the water is that they are not biodegradable. So they don’t actually dissolve in the water nor do they decompose or break down in any amount of time.
This report confirms that nearly all of New York state waters are being polluted by microbeads. The waste water treatment plants are not properly screening out the microbeads. Which means that the only possible way to stop this microbead pollution is by eliminating them in products altogether. The lowest hanging fruit are the personal care products as they are responsible for a significant amount of the microbead contamination in the waters.
Microbeads are the subject of the Microbead-Free Waters Act, a piece of legislation proposed last year by Schneiderman. This law would ban the sale of the personal care skin care products that contain microbeads that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter. Microbeads are being officially listed as a Great Lakes contaminant. It is time for skin care products manufacturers to step up and eliminate microbeads from personal care products. There is absolutely no need for them and their environmental impact is irreparable.