Congress bans microbeads

Although the ban has been signed into law, it likely won't take effect until 2017. There are still many products containing dangerous plastic microbeads on store shelves. Photo by Jenny Hartzell

[The Observer is excited to kick off the new year with a new columnist. Jennifer Hartzell is a member of the Bay Village Green Team. Her column, "The Green Report," will highlight simple ways to help readers lead a more "green" lifestyle. Jennifer has a background in grant writing for local Cleveland non-profit organizations. She grew up in Evanston, Illinois, and met her husband at Miami University. They reside in Bay Village with their three children, two cats and a dog.]

The Great Lakes, as well as all other waterways, will soon have one less pollutant! On Dec. 28, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman and co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown that will prohibit microbeads in personal care products. Microbeads are tiny plastic beads that are in hundreds of different personal products, from face scrubs and skin exfoliants to toothpaste. These beads are washed down the drain after they are used, and water treatment plants are unable to filter them out due to their tiny size. They then make it into the lake, or ocean, and fish mistake them for food. Microbeads are a huge polluter of water worldwide.

Microbeads are made of plastic, and they absorb toxins like a sponge. Fish then mistake them for food, and eat them. It is feared that the toxins can then be easily passed on to humans and wildlife that eat the fish. Furthermore, microbeads found in some toothpastes can become lodged between the teeth and the gum, causing a range of dental problems. Because of all of these detrimental effects to both the environment and human health, many companies have already begun to phase out microbeads. 

It is expected that the ban will go into effect in July 2017. In the meantime, you can help by not purchasing products with microbeads in them and tossing out the products containing microbeads that you may have at home. If you are unsure if your products contain microbeads, look in the ingredients list for “polyethylene.” Some products say “contains microbeads” directly on them. Others are trickier, and the only way you can tell is by looking at the ingredients.

There is also a website, that offers a full listing of products with microbeads. Many people have not yet heard of this issue, and I hope that you all will take a look around your home to ensure you are not using these products! Please do not wash these products down the sink in order to recycle the package. While recycling is important, it is more important that the microbeads stay out of the lake, so please simply toss any products you might have into the trash.  

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Volume 8, Issue 1, Posted 10:11 AM, 01.05.2016