Microbeads—the small plastic spheres used in cosmetic products, cleansers and toothpastes—could be banned in New York State soon if the attorney general has his way.
The reason microbeads have found there way into A.G. Eric Schneiderman’s sights is their impact on the environment.
“These beads can persist for centuries and accumulate toxic chemicals on their surface, threatening wildlife and public health,” according to Schneiderman’s Facebook page. His office states that when microbeads are washed down the drain and into sewer systems, their size and buoyancy allows them to escape sewage treatment and be discharged into waterbodies, where they are consumed by marine life and can move up the food chain to human consumption.
“From the Great Lakes to the Hudson River to Long Island Sound, our commitment to protecting and restoring New York’s waters is among our most important responsibilities,” Schneiderman said. “New York’s environmental leadership continues today with the introduction of common-sense legislation that will stop the flow of plastic from ill-designed beauty products into our vital waters, preserving our natural heritage for future generations.”
If adopted, the ban will be the first of its kind in the U.S. The law would apply to all shampoos, facial scrubs and other beauty products. The products could not be manufactured, distributed or sold throughout the state.
“It’s easy to underestimate the harm that products like this cause, but no matter the shape or size of the plastic, it is still plastic we are flushing down the drain,” Environmental Advocates of New York President Peter Iwanowicz said. “Plastic microbeads haven’t made a single New Yorker cleaner or more beautiful so their continued use is absurd.”
Proctor and Gamble, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive have already committed to phasing out microbeads from their products. Schneiderman’s office notes that consumers can check products for microbeads by looking for “polyethylene” or “polypropylene” on the ingredient label.