Earlier this month, Suffolk County legislators voted unanimously to ban personal care products—such as soaps, toothpaste and exfoliating facewash—that contain plastic microbeads due to the harm they may cause to the environment. County Executive Steve Bellone signed the ban into law Tuesday, making Suffolk the largest municipality in New York State to adopt such as ban.
The initiative, sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn, of Setauket, and Legislator Jay Schneiderman, of Southampton, institutes a local phase-out beginning January 2018 for personal care products not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and January 2019 for ones that are.
“These small beads are causing big problems,” Schneiderman said. “Contaminant laden plastic particles are being ingested by marine life and are damaging our ecology.”
According to the county, research shows that the beads soak up pesticides and chemicals while flowing from their source. The toxin-laden particles are often mistaken for food by small fish and other aquatic species, who consume and absorb the contaminants. Once in the system, these pollutants are recycled from smaller organisms to larger ones and eventually into the human food supply through consumption of contaminated organisms.
“Signing this legislation into law is a no brainer,” Bellone said. “We need to all we can to protect our waterways and ensure that our seafood is not contaminated by microbeads or by the organisms that attach themselves to microbeads.”
Marcia Bystryn, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, added, “Microbeads pose a massive risk to our waterways as marine creatures like fish, clams, oysters, and crabs ingest them and then enter the food chain. Our wastewater treatment systems are simply not equipped to filter them out. The only viable solution is to ban them.”