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Illinois Becomes First State to Ban Microbeads

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation outlawing the manufacture and sale of personal care products containing synthetic plastic microbeads. “Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow,” says Quinn.

The new law halts the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads by the end of 2017, the sale of personal care products and the manufacture of over-the-counter drugs by the end of 2018, and the sale of over-the-counter drugs by the end of 2019. At least four other states are considering similar bills.

Preliminary studies in the Great Lakes have found millions of microbeads per square kilometer. The non-biodegradable plastic particles that are used as exfoliants in many facial cleansers and soaps make their way through sewage systems and accumulate in waterways. Once in the water, microbeads, like other plastics, can absorb persistent toxic chemicals and are than mistaken for food by fish and wildlife of all sizes, raising serious concerns about their impact on a variety of species up the food chain.

Unilever has announced plans to complete its phaseout of microbeads globally by 2015. Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, The Body Shop and L’Oreal have announced on their websites plans for gradually eliminating the scrubbing beads from their products and are testing more natural alternatives, like ground seeds or nuts.

Consumers that don’t wish to use products with the beads should avoid products that list polyethylene and polypropylene as ingredients, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, an advocate for protection of the Great Lakes.

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