Reps. Smith And Patterson Introduce Ban On Production And Sale Of Microbeads
Bill would prevent consumption of harmful plastics from fish to humans
November 20, 2015
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State Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Kent Smith (D-Euclid) introduced legislation today that would prohibit the manufacture and sale of microbeads, small plastic particles that are typically used in personal care products such as hand sanitizers and toothpastes. Microbeads can pollute public waterways — including Lake Erie — by slipping through water treatment systems when they wash down the drain.

Recent scientific studies have shown the prevalence of microbeads in public waterways, including lakes and oceans, and their many tributaries. Scientists have raised concerns on the effects microbeads have on fish and wildlife, as well as the direct effect they can have on humans. Because microbeads are roughly the same size and shape as fish eggs, fish can mistake them as a food source, which in turn can be passed on to humans and other wildlife through consumption.

“Microbeads are incredibly common in many of our daily routines,” said Patterson. “Recent research has shown that an astounding eight trillion microbeads a day are rinsed down the drain by Americans. This is a multifaceted issue that directly affects everything from public health, to commercial fishing to our environment.”

Microbeads are being added to a growing quantity of plastic floating in the world’s oceans. A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that over 90 percent of seabirds have pieces of plastic in their guts.

The harmful effects of microbeads become exacerbated if they are exposed to certain toxins. They can act as a sponge and absorb toxins that can be passed on from fish to humans who consume them.

“Lake Erie is a part of the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world and it needs to be protected. Other states along the Great Lakes have introduced or passed similar bans. It is time for Ohio to do the same,” said Smith. “It is my hope that my colleagues in the Ohio legislature will again be great friends to Lake Erie and the Great Lakes and pass this microbead ban.”

While several states have introduced or passed similar bans, Ohio is among the few states adjacent to the Great Lakes that has yet to act. The legislation introduced today would ban the manufacturing of microbeads in 2017 followed by banning the sale of them in 2018, giving the industry and consumers the opportunity to adjust to the new regulations. The measure also requires several state agencies to develop a consumer education program to educate the public about the best practices for microbeads. The program would include information on proper disposal of cosmetic and personal care products containing microbeads and list alternative products that do not contain microbeads.

This week, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed similar legislation, setting the course for a nationwide ban.

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