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President Obama signs bill banning plastic microbeads

Staff Reports Posted 29 December 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers  – A fisherman walks along the west pier at Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from May 3, 2015. Microbeads are seen as a threat to fishing industries in the Great Lakes.

President Barack Obama on Monday signed legislation banning products containing plastic microbeads, an effort that was championed by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY.
Plastic microbeads are found in personal care products like facial scrubs, body washes, hand cleansers, and toothpaste. These products are designed to be rinsed down the drain, but the microbeads are too small to be captured by wastewater treatment plants.

They subsequently have been found in large bodies of water across New York State, where they concentrate toxins and can be ingested by birds and fish, posing serious environmental and health risks, Gillibrand said.

In an April 2015, a report released by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office found that microbeads were present in 74 percent of water samples taken from 34 municipal and private treatment plants across New York State.

“I am pleased that President Obama signed our legislation to federally ban plastic microbeads in personal care products,” Gillibrand said in a statement today. “This new law gives us a powerful new tool in our efforts to clean up New York’s waterways. These tiny pieces of plastic have the potential to cause serious ecological damage, hurt our fishing and tourism industries, and they have already polluted our drinking water supply. By removing products containing plastic microbeads from the marketplace, we can now begin to focus on cleaning up the mess they caused.”

The plastic microbeads could have a devastating effect on the state’s fish populations, hurting the commercial and recreational fishing industries, tourism industry, and the general economic wellbeing of the state’s coastal communities.

The states of Illinois, Connecticut and California have already banned plastic microbeads in consumer products, with legislation being considered in several other states, including New York.