For immediate release:
March 16, 2015
INDIANAPOLIS - Legislation authored by State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) that would ban synthetic plastic microbeads, and eliminate a major water pollutant in the Great Lakes Basin, is on its way to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for final approval.
Members of the Indiana Senate today passed House Bill 1185, which would prevent the sale of any products containing the microbeads after December 2017. Since Senators made no changes to the legislation, it goes straight to the governor for his consideration.
“Non-biodegradable microbeads, which are five millimeters or smaller in diameter, are added to skincare products as exfoliators,” Bauer said. “The beads can also be found in toothpaste, moisturizers, fragrances, and shampoo. Experts say the tiny pieces of plastic have created major problems in the Great Lakes Basin, where contaminant concentrations are higher than even the ocean.”
Microbeads are not filtered out at water treatment plants because of their miniscule size. As the tiny plastic material passes through the purification system, it collects bacteria before the pollutants re-enter and become trapped in waterways for extended periods of time.
Scientists are seriously concerned that the bacterial microbes on the plastic could be pathogenic. Fish and other wildlife inadvertently consume the particles, which causes the plastic to pass through the food chain.
“Adapting the current water treatment facilities to deal with microbeads would be a very expensive process,” explained Bauer. “Preventatively handling it on the front-end will take care of the problem by eliminating it as a pollution source.
“Destructive ingredients can easily be replaced with natural, biodegradable alternatives like apricot seeds, walnut shells, and bamboo. In fact, microbeads typically have round edges. Some of these holistic products, because they have some texture to their edges, should serve as even better exfoliants,” he added.
HB 1185 has garnered support from environmental groups and even the industry it proposes to further regulate. Backing the bill is the Personal Care Products Council, which manufactures, distributes, and supplies the majority of personal products marketed in the U.S.
Dental professionals also favor the microbead phase-out because microbeads can wear down tooth enamel and may cause gum disease.
“If you think about the sheer number of microbeads being washed down the drain daily, it’s quite staggering,” said Bauer. “Indiana can keep the momentum going to ban and remove harmful products from the market. We might not be the first state to ban microbeads, but we can be the next.”
Illinois passed similar legislation banning microbeads just last year. The Alliance for the Great Lakes is urging additional states to take action.
The full Senate passed HB 1185 today by a vote of 44-5. Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) sponsored the bill, which previously gained unanimous approval from the Indiana House Environmental Affairs Committee, full House, and Senate Commerce & Technology Committee.
[Listen to Indiana State Rep. Bauer summarize the need for
this legislation in a 21-second mp3 clip.]