Illinois has become the first state in the nation to ban microbeads, the small plastic particles found in many soaps and skin care products.
Recent research found that most microbeads are too small to be detected by water filtration systems. This allows them to reach lakes and rivers, where they attract pollutants in the surrounding water. They are then consumed by fish, who confuse the plastic beads with fish eggs. If these fish are then consumed by humans or other wildlife, the toxins are able to spread throughout the food chain.
Researcher Sherri Mason found up to one million of the tiny pellets per square kilometer in areas of the Great Lakes.
Illinois is requiring manufacturers to phase out microbeads by the end of 2017. Some companies are already investigating biodegradable alternatives.
Illinois governor Pat Quinn hopes that the rest of the nation will follow Illinois’s example. There is a similar bill pending in New York, and legislators are taking action in Minnesota, Ohio, and California as well.
Concerned consumers should avoid purchasing products listing polyethylene or polypropylene among their ingredients.