Bill would ban microbeads to keep Lakes clean

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new bill introduced in the state Senate would ban the sale of certain beauty products in Michigan.

It’s an attempt to keep little plastic balls called microbeads out of the Great Lakes. Microbeads are used as exfoliants in some beauty products like face wash, soap and even toothpaste.

Dr.  Sherri Mason, a professor of chemistry at State University of New York at Fredonia, has conducted studies on microbeads by collecting samples from the Great Lakes — mostly from Lake Michigan.

“We found such a high abundance of these perfectly round spherical balls of plastic that when we saw them you immediately think, ‘where are these coming from?'” she said. “Within the entire Great Lakes, they end up making about 16% of the plastic we pull out, which as a single source is fairly significant.”

Legislation introduced in the Michigan legislature would ban the sale of products that include microbeads starting in 2019.

>>PDF: Read the bill

The biggest problem with microbeads is that the plastic picks up all sorts of contaminants already in the water. Then, because they look like food, fish eat them and people eat the fish.

“They lead all sorts of pretty wide range of human health impact,” Mason said. “Anywhere from linkages to breast cancer to testicular cancer to things like increases in obesity of children under six months.”

She said it wouldn’t be difficult to stop using the microbeads.

“Anything we are finding in the water ultimately comes from us, so if we don’t want it in the water then it’s really about us reducing our use of plastic,” Mason said. “That is why I think this legislation is so important; because it can identify a particular source and a particular source that is so unbelievably unnecessary. There are products that are on the marketplace right now that we can choose to use instead of plastic. If we can make these very easy changes in our life in terms of reducing our plastic usage, it dramatically impacts what is in the water and that leads back to us. We are the problem, which also means we are the solution.”

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