Monday, April 27, 2015

How do You like Your Water -- With or Without Plastic Microbeads?

By David Kowalski .

Microbeads are tiny plastic spheres that are widely used in cosmetics and skin care products as exfoliating agents.

When products containing the microbeads are washed down the drain, they enter the sewage system. However, the microbeads are not filtered out by sewage treatment and so they enter our waterways.

Initially found in open waters of Lake Erie, microbeads have subsequently been detected in water of Lake Ontario, Cayuga Lake, Oneida Lake, the Erie Canal and elsewhere. Microbeads were recently found in the Adirondack Region in Lake Placid wastewater.

A study just released by the NY State Attorney General's Office found microbeads in wastewater discharged from 74% of the treatment facilities tested. The true contribution of microplastic pollution is likely greater than that detected since only the easily-identified types of microbeads (spherical and speckled - only 6% of the total types) were studied.

[Click image to enlarge]
Microbeads in the water are consumed by fish, other wildlife and ultimately by humans.

Fredonia State College professor, Sheri Mason, has researched microbead pollution in the Great Lakes. Mason says that the plasticizer chemical present in the plastic is the concern because it can move out of the plastic and into you.

Certain plasticizer chemicals may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.

Another important concern is microbead absorption and concentration of toxic chemical pollutants present in waterways. This could harm fish and other marine life that mistake the toxic microbeads as food. Fish that bioacumulate the concentrated toxins over time may cause harm to birds, pets or people that eat them.

The New York State Legislature needs to back a bill to eliminate microbeads to protect our environment and public health. The Assembly has already passed a bill to prohibit the sale of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads.

The Senate bill (S3932-2015) has been referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee. Unfortunately, there was insufficient support to bring that bill up for a vote last year.

Public support is absolutely necessary to move the Senate bill out of the Committee and to the floor for a vote.

Take Action - Contact your NYS Senator
Urge them to Co-sponsor Bill S3932-2015, the "Microbead-free waters act," to prohibit sale of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads.

Senate Directory and Identity:
- For phone numbers and to contact by Email, visit:

- To identify your Senator, go here:

Buffalo News Editorial cartoon by Pulitzer Prize Winner Adam Zyglis
This post was updated on 4/28/2015.

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