Organic Consumers Association

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Bill Banning Sale of Cosmetics Containing Microbeads to Be Proposed

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California is lining up to become the largest state to ban the sale of cosmetic products, such as facial scrubs, containing tiny plastic beads that find their way into waterways and the ocean.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would ban the sale of products containing the microbeads, which are too small to be removed by water treatment processes after they drain out of sinks and showers.

A New York legislator introduced a similar measure Tuesday after scientists found high concentrations of the tiny exfoliating beads in the state's lakes and other waters.

Researchers warn that the microbeads, which are not biodegradable, are ingested by fish and other animals, potentially ending up in the food chain. The tiny plastic orbs have already been found in California waters and in the Pacific Ocean.

The bill, which would impose civil penalties, isn't as far reaching as New York's, which would ban not just the sale, but also the manufacture of products containing plastic particles 5 millimeters or smaller in diameter.

Nonetheless, its introduction is a victory for the 5 Gyers Institute, a Santa Monica environmental and advocacy nonprofit with just five staff members. The group, which found high levels of microbeads in the Great Lakes in 2012 and is researching plastic pollution in California, helped craft the legislation in both states.

"5 Gyers is a really nimble organization," said Stiv Wilson, the group's policy director. "We take pride we were able to get this bill introduced in two really important states."

Major cosmetic companies, including Procter & Gamble Co. and Johnson & Johnson, have already pledged to phase out the use of the plastic microbeads from their products.     
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