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NY Fights Microbeads in Your Moisturizer

Plastic Microbeads
Plastic microbeads endanger wildlife and waters.

A global campaign to eliminate plastic microbeads from the planet, got a big boost last month from New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneidermann. He submitted a bill to the state legislature that would ban any beauty product, cosmetic, or other personal care product containing plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in size. These tiny plastic beads cause serious pollution of Long Island Sound and many other New York waterways.

Microbeads are commonly used hundreds of products, although you cannot see them. They are found in facial scrubs, soaps, shampoo, and even toothpaste, where they function as abrasives, replacing other ingredients like ground walnut shells and sea salt.  When you use one of these products, the beads can be rinsed down the drain and into our sewer systems. But because of their very small size and buoyancy, microbeads actually escape treatment by sewage plants and are discharged into rivers, lakes and oceans.

You can find out if your beauty or personal care products contain microbeads by checking the product ingredient list for “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.” Also, there are useful product lists that you can check on the global campaign website called, “”

Once in the water, microbeads, like other plastics, can attract and accumulate certain toxic chemicals commonly found in waters across the state, and can be mistaken as food by small fish and wildlife. Scientific studies have shown that fish and wildlife of all sizes consume plastic.

According to the Attorney General, several leading beauty product manufacturers – Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Proctor and Gamble, and Unilever – have made commitments to phase out the use of microbeads in their products in a few years. Other companies, such as Burt’s Bees, have never used these plastics in their products.

The Attorney General first announced his bill over a year ago, and while it seemed to have widespread support among environmental groups, it went nowhere in the legislature. The global campaign, however, has enlisted supporters in 32 countries and seems to be gaining momentum.

Photo courtesy

Joyce Newman
Joyce Newman
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.
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