Tonawanda News

The Tonawandas

May 16, 2014

Microbeads threaten area waterways

Tonawanda News — A wide range of cosmetic products that contain microbeads are causing serious dangers to area waterways, according to a report released Thursday by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

A proposed law called the Microbead-Free Waters Act, would make New York the first state in the country to ban the sale of products that contain microbeads. 

Microbeads are tiny plastic beads used as abrasive substances for personal care products. Many studies have stated that the beads are washed down drains, and end up in the water, where they act like sponges for toxic chemical pollutants. The beads are identified on product ingredient lists as "polyethylene" or "polypropylene."

Schneiderman said New York state saw 19 tons of microbeads washed down the drains and into area waterways each year. He also noted that three mega retailers have committed to phasing out the beads, including Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive. 

"New York has always been at the forefront of national progress when it comes to addressing the issue of plastic pollution," Schneiderman said. "We require plastic bag recycling in large stores. We banned harmful chemicals in baby bottles and pacifiers. We are expanding our bottle deposit law to include plastic water bottles. By passing the Microbead-Free Waters Act, we will show that New York remains a leader in protecting the health of our families and our environment."

 Dr. Sherri Mason, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia, confirmed some of bureau's findings, calling it a "serious problem" and commended the possibility of passing the act in the near future. 

"Beginning in 2012, we began sampling the Great Lakes to more thoroughly understand the scope of plastic pollution in freshwater systems," she said. "Our results confirmed that high concentrations of microbeads were collected in New York’s water."

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