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Bill Would Ban Plastic Microbeads in California

Peter Halasz / Flickr

Peter Halasz / Flickr

Microbeads are used in more than 200 products, from exfoliating facial scrubs and soaps, to sunscreens and toothpaste. 

Water and sewage treatment systems can’t filter the tiny plastic particles; they’re already showing up in the Great Lakes, the Los Angeles River and the Pacific Ocean.

Stiv Wilson is with the 5 Gyres Institute, which studies marine plastic debris.

“Each product contains about 350,000 beads," says Wilson. "So you’re talking a million beads for three products going down the drain and into the environment.”

The plastic beads absorb toxic chemicals, pollute waterways and can be ingested by fish.

"There seems to be a sensible way to have an alternative," says Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande. "Many companies are starting to do that so I think it’s a good policy to help the environment where it really doesn’t seem to be a heavy drag on the business side of it.”

Nestande is co-authoring the bill with Democratic Assemblymember Richard Bloom. 

“We are giving companies a period of time to transition to natural products," says Bloom. "We think this is something that can work for everyone.”

The California Chamber of Commerce and manufacturers of the products oppose the legislation. The groups say the Department of Toxic Substances Control should instead regulate the use of microbeads under the Safer Consumer Products Regulation.


Amy Quinton

Former Environment Reporter

Amy came to Sacramento from New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) where she was Environment Reporter. Amy has also reported for NPR member stations WFAE in Charlotte, WAMU in Washington D.C. and American Public Media's "Marketplace."  Read Full Bio 

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