For immediate release:
March 5, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana Senate Committee passed legislation today authored by State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) banning the use of synthetic plastic microbeads because of harmful effects on the environment, wildlife, and public health. The plastic has been proven to be a significant cause of water pollution.
The ban is contained in House Bill 1185, which the Senate Committee on Commerce & Technology unanimously passed 6-0. Non-biodegradable microbeads are less than five millimeters in size and found in personal care products such as sunscreens, toothpaste, shampoo, facial exfoliators, lotions, and fragrances.
“Indiana can keep the momentum going to ban and remove harmful products from the market,” said Bauer. “We might not be the first state to ban microbeads, but we can be the next. Destructive materials can easily be replaced with natural alternatives that are biodegradable, such as sand and apricot and coconut shells.
“If you think about the sheer number of microbeads being washed down the drain daily, it’s quite staggering,” he added.
HB 1185 has garnered support from environmental groups and, surprisingly enough, the industry it proposes to further regulate. The Personal Care Products Council manufactures, distributes, and supplies the vast majority of finished cosmetic and personal care products marketed in the U.S. and is backing the bill.
Dentists also favor the ban because microbeads can wear down tooth enamel and cause bleeding of the gums.
Dr. Tim Hollein of the University of Loyola Chicago described how microbeads are not filtered out at water treatment plants because of their miniscule size. As the tiny plastic materials pass through the purification system, they collect bacteria before the pollutants re-enter and become trapped in water sources for extended periods of time. Microbead concentrations in the Great Lakes were discovered to be higher than even the ocean.
A serious concern from scientists is that the microbes on the plastic could be pathogenic. Because the beads float on the water’s surface, fish mistake the particles for food and pass them through the food chain. Once the plastic is inside the fish, it can actually come off and may represent a delivery mechanism for harmful chemicals.
David St. Pierre of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago explained that adapting the current water treatment facilities to deal with microbeads would be a very expensive process. He says preventatively dealing with it on the front end takes care of the problem by eliminating it as a pollution source.