Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Ban Plastic Microbeads in New York!


Although you may not even realize it, you may be scrubbing plastic on to your face or teeth every morning. In recent years a new ingredient has been added to many personal care products such as facial scrubs, soaps, shampoo, and toothpaste.  Tiny plastic microbeads have replaced ground walnut shells, sea salt, and other natural materials as an abrasive in more than 100 personal care products.

While it may seem unsettling to hear that you may be bathing in plastic, what is even more unsettling is the fact that these plastic microbeads are polluting the Great Lakes and other bodies of water, posing an emerging threat to wildlife and public health.  Once these mircobeads are washed down the drain, they can enter waterways through sewage overflows or even pass through sewage treatment plants and be discharged as effluent. Once in the water, microbeads, like other plastics, can attract and accumulate certain toxic chemicals.  The microbeads can be mistaken as food by small fish and wildlife. Scientific studies have shown that fish and wildlife of all sizes consume plastic, and that the chemicals can be passed up the food chain to larger fish, wildlife, and ultimately humans.

A team of researchers conducted a study in 2012 and found high levels of plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes, with the highest levels in Lake Erie.  While testing needs to occur in other water bodies, there is every reason to believe that this problem is prevelant in water resources throughout New York.  Some manufactures have recognized the problem, and have committed to phasing plastic microbeads out of their products over time. While that is a start, it is not enough.  Not every company has agreed to remove the microbeads, and others will just take too long to remove the plastic from their products.

In response to this emerging threat, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has proposed to ban plastic microbeads in beauty and personal care products in New York.  Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chair of the NYS Assembly Environmental Conservation committee, is introducing legislation in the NYS Assembly to do just that.  We commend Attorney General Schneiderman and Assemblyman Sweeney for their leadership and foresight to proactively address this growing problem. CCE will be working to advance this critical legislation in 2014.

Until a law is passed and implemented, many wonder how to avoid buying products with plastic microbeads.  You can do this by checking the product ingredient list and avoid buying products with “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.”

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One Comment

  1. Jennifer Figueroa
    Posted April 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    who would’ve even thought where those little plastic beads go once washed down the drain? Highest levels found in my home country- Lake Erie 🙁 Definitely buy products with natural exfolients guys and gals- i.e. walnut shells, etc. I don’t want to eat perch that have been feeding on plastic.

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