A federal law enacting a ban on plastic microbeads in shampoos, facial washes, toothpastes and other such products will be phased in starting 2017, but will it be enough to solve the plastic pollution problem plaguing our rivers, lakes and oceans?
“The microbead ban is an important step in the right direction, but we have a lot more work to do,” Blake Kopcho, oceans campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said of the Microbead-Free Waters Act that President Barack Obama signed into law Dec. 28 (story for subscribers here).
Under this law, manufacture of plastic microbeads in such products will start July 1, 2017, followed a year later by a ban on the manufacture of over-the-counter drugs as well as sale of rinse-off cosmetics containing these microplastics. The sale of over-the-counter drugs containing these products will take effect July 1, 2019.
The law will supersede the varying bans on manufacture and sales in nine states-- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Wisconsin. Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson are among the many companies that have voluntarily agreed to phase out microbead use in personal care products.
Microbeads have become ubiquitous in the nation's waters because of their use in about 100 types of personal care products across the country. I examined the issues surrounding the ban of these microplastics in September, when the bill was still being debated.
According to the Personal Care Products Council, microbeads make up 0.1 percent of microplastics. The industry’s scientists also emphasize that no environmental harm has yet been documented from the use of such plastics. But the nonprofit 5 Gyres reminds us that microplastics account for 93 percent of the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our waters, and that 0.1 percent of that figure is still a significant enough number.
Although no environmental harm has been correlated with these tiny spherical microplastics, which have eluded capture by wastewater treatment, environmental groups insist it is only a matter of time before further study uncovers that connection.
What is concerning now is that research has shown conclusively that microbeads act as sponges for more toxic chemicals and endocrine disruptors, such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and bisphenol A or BPA, among others.
What’s more: research soon to be published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research by Environmental Chemistry Professor Sherri Mason at the State University of New York in Fredonia shows evidence that microbeads have been found inside 25 different species of fish including perch and trout in the Great Lakes.
Mason agreed that more studies are needed to evaluate the extent of harm arising from the fish consumption of microbeads and also to characterize the sources of microplastics including microbeads. She already is in the process of studying plastic pollution within 29 tributaries to the Great Lakes.
But groups such as 5 Gyres, Riverkeeper and Center for Biological Diversity don’t plan to wait to see the results of environmental damage owing to the accumulation of microplastics.
“While we are waiting for the microbead phase out to commence, we are going to redouble our efforts to pass policies that tackle major contributors of plastic pollution – like plastic bottles, microfibers, and plastic bags--at the source,” Kopcho told Bloomberg BNA.
-- By Amena H. Saiyid
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)