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Senator Wants to Ban Tiny Microbeads in Beauty Products, Saying they Hurt Water

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Tiny plastic particles called microbeads are being used as exfoliants in soaps, scrubs and toothpaste. But a Democratic state senator from northeast Ohio says they’re making a mess of the Great Lakes.

Monday, March 31, 2014 at 5:30 pm

State Sen. Michael Skindell of Lakewood says a group of scientists did a survey of the Great Lakes in 2012 and found millions floating on the water, and getting eaten by fish and birds. So Skindell says it’s time for those microbeads -- too small to be filtered out -- to be outlawed.

“They then go out into our lake, the fish eat this, and these microbeads, the plastic beads attract toxins, and the fish eat these microbeads with the toxins," Skindell said. "And then when we go fishing, we then digest the toxins.”

Skindell says some companies using the microbeads, such as Unilever, have said they’re phasing them out, and others are using natural exfoliants such as crushed walnut or coconut shells.

“Well some large businesses that already produce these products with the plastic microbeads have already stated that in a couple years they are going to phase them out, they are not going to produce them anymore," he said. "But we need legislation here in Ohio, in Michigan, in New York, to make sure this is banned from all industries, and it does not go into these products.”

Microbead bans have been introduced in New York and California, but Skindell’s bill, which would fine companies that violate the microbead ban a thousand dollars a day, may not get far. It’s starting out with no Republican co-sponsors, and Republicans dominate Democrats in the Senate 2-1.

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