Tonawanda News


May 7, 2014

CONFER: Microbeads are a danger to the environment


Tonawanda News — A 2012 study conducted by SUNY Fredonia and the 5 Gyres Institute found that microbeads account for half of the plastic found floating on Lake Erie’s surface.

Let’s put that into perspective: Think about how many times you’ve walked the shore of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario and encountered an unsavory mess onshore and offshore that might include packaging, beverage containers, detergent bottles and tampon applicators. For everything that you do see, there’s just as much plastic, by weight, that you can’t see floating on the surface and stuck amongst the grains of sand on the beach.

Beyond filling the environment with things that don’t belong, microbeads’ effects on the food chain are scary. They pick up contaminants such as PCBs and then are ingested by small fish and invertebrates, which are then eaten by larger fish, which are in turn eaten by birds, wild mammals and man. Everything — and everyone — at the top of the chain picks up the accumulated poisons.

There was a well-publicized push by New York State to ban microbeads earlier this year. Even the Attorney General contributed to the cause, helping to develop the Microbead-Free Waters Act that would prohibit the production, manufacture, distribution and sale in New York of any beauty product, cosmetic or other personal care product containing plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size.

Despite much fanfare at the bill’s launch, there’s been little movement since. The Assembly bill (8744) introduced by Robert Sweeney, chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, has been referred to committees and codes and has not yet even garnered a sponsor in the Senate.

It’s highly unlikely that a senator will draft that house’s version this year (there’s just over a month left in the session) or next. So, this much-needed piece of legislation will likely go down the drain, just like the beads they hope to regulate.

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