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Schneiderman, Gillibrand announce new push to ban plastic microbeads in personal care products

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Tue, Jul 21st 2015 03:05 pm

Say plastic microbeads pose severe risks to ecosystem when washed down the drain 

Standing at the Long Island Maritime Museum, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, joined by Suffolk County Legislator Bill Lindsay III and Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment Adrienne Esposito, announced a new push to ban plastic microbeads in personal care products. Gillibrand introduced the bipartisan Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, legislation to federally ban cosmetics containing synthetic plastic microbeads. Schneiderman's bipartisan bill, also called the Microbead-Free Waters Act, would prohibit the sale and distribution of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads.

Plastic microbeads are found in personal care products such as 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, where elected leaders said they concentrate toxins and can be ingested by birds and fish, posing serious environmental and health risks. An April report released by the attorney general's office found microbeads were present in 74 percent of water samples taken from 34 municipal and private treatment plants across New York.

He said 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 well-being of the state's coastal communities.

"Microbeads are a threat to our environment, our wildlife and our public health," Schneiderman said. "New Yorkers wash more than 19 tons of microbeads down the drain every year. Strong, comprehensive regulation is the only way to stop this situation from getting worse. My bipartisan bill in Albany and Sen. Gillibrand's bipartisan bill in Washington will both be major steps toward a cleaner, healthier state."

"These tiny pieces of plastic have already caused significant ecological damage to New York's waterways, and they will continue to do so until they are removed from the marketplace. That's why I introduced bipartisan legislation to federally ban microbeads across the country," Gillibrand said. "Plastic microbeads are too small to be stopped by normal water treatment systems, and they collect toxins in the water that harm not only fish and birds, but also the people in this region who rely on them for food and wellbeing."

"The public expects facial soaps and toothpaste to clean our face and teeth, not pollute our waters," Esposito said. "Plastic microbeads pollute our waters, contaminate our fish and shellfish, and could end up back on our dinner plates. They are completely unnecessary. Alternatives, such as apricot shells, salt and oatmeal exist and are effective. We commend Sen. Gillibrand and Attorney General Schneiderman for leading the charge to ban plastic microbeads and protect New York waters and public health."

"I first learned about microbead pollution at a National Caucus of Environmental Legislators' Great Lakes Forum," said Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, sponsor of the state legislation to ban microbeads. "The concentrations of microplastic from the Great Lakes rivaled the highest concentrations of microplastic collected from the world's ocean garbage patches. Not only do microbeads damage our environment, they are fast becoming an expensive problem for our wastewater infrastructure.

"I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's tenacity and dedication to this issue. Over the past few years, this has become a nationwide issue and, if we continue to ignore it, our waterways from the Great Lakes to the Long Island Sound to Manhasset Bay will continue to accumulate these tiny toxic plastic particles."

The state of Illinois has already banned plastic microbeads in consumer products, with legislation being considered in 13 other states including New York.

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