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NY Attorney General Calls for Ban of Soaps Containing Microbeads

May 16, 2014 03:28 PM EDT

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has called for a state-wide ban of soaps containing microbeads, citing recent studies that show how harmful the tiny cosmetic abrasives can be to the environment.

The office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a new report detailing the damages that microbeads - tiny plastic beads that are used as cleansing abrasives in cosmetic products - cause to New York waterways.

According to the report, which was prepared by the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB), "nineteen tons of microbeads are washed down the drain each year and many end up in New York's waters, where they remain for decades, acting as sponges for toxic chemical pollutants."

The tiny "toxic sponges" can then be eaten by fish and wildlife, spreading toxin contamination throughout entire food chains and threatening the New York ecosystem, the authors of the report write.

Alongside this release, nine additional officials and political figures joined Schneiderman to support the passing of the Attorney General's Microbead-Free Waters Act, which was first proposed earlier this year. This bill would make New York State the first in the nation to ban the sale of any-and-all products containing microbeads.

"New York has always been at the forefront of national progress when it comes to addressing the issue of plastic pollution," Schneiderman said in a prepared statement. "By passing the Microbead-Free Waters Act, we will show that New York remains a leader in protecting the health of our families and our environment."

The bill was unanimously passed by the Assembly on May 5 and is currently being considered in the Senate.

However, research has shown that microbeads are not just a New York problem. Similar battles are being fought in other parts of the United States and Europe as well. "Beat the Microbead" is an international campaign dedicated to eliminating the use of the plastic abrasives in cosmetics. According to the organization - which is supported by the United Nation Environmental Programme - approximately 11 percent of all environmental problems caused by marine debris can be directly linked to microbeads. Eliminating this threat could take a significant chunk out of the water pollution problem that some experts call "the plastic soup."

Encouragingly, at least 21 companies around the world have already expressed a commitment to "phasing out" microbeads in their products. Other companies have not acknowledged the threat of these beads, but none have taken pains to deny the claims of environmental experts, according to the EPB report.

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