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Gillibrand calls for federal ban on microbeads

Ashley Hirtzel

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced in Buffalo Friday new federal legislation to ban microbeads in personal care products like facial scrubs and body wash.

The plastic beads are designed to be washed down the drain, but are too small and pass through wastewater treatment plants. The beads are then found in waterways, like the Great Lakes.

Across New York State, 19 tons of microbeads are washed down the drain each year. Gillibrand says the plastic beads pose serious environmental health risks and could have a devastating effect on the Great Lakes fish population.

“When these plastic particles fill the water they attract pollutants like PCBs already in the environment and concentrate them to dangerous levels. Fish and Birds think they’re food and eat them. Not only does this disrupt the food chain and contaminate significant portions of the wildlife population here, but it hurts our commercial and recreational fishing industries because they can’t sell and we can’t eat a catch that’s contaminated with toxic plastic,” said Gillibrand.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO
Microbeads and products that contain microbeads.

Gillibrand says there are many biodegradable alternatives to microbeads such as sugar, salt, and grape seeds.

“As a mom, I don’t want to worry that there is PCBs in the fish my children are eating. I think food safety is paramount. It is essential that we know that our locally provided foods and locally supported fish throughout the state are clean and that they are healthy. As a legislator, we want to nip this in the bud now. This is a hazard that will only grow, that will create more life threatening and more health threatening situations around the country. We should be able to find an alternative,” said Gillibrand.

A similar bill banning microbeads in New York State was introduced this past spring called the ‘Microbead-Free Waters Act.’ The legislation has already passed in the Assembly.