Cosmetics and personal care products, such as body scrubs and toothpaste, contain tiny plastic microbeads. A four-ounce tube of facial scrub can contain 350,000 or more. Sewage treatment plant filtration systems cannot trap objects smaller than five millimeters, so they enter our waterways, impacting the ecosystems. Once in the water, they can remain for decades. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s 2014 report estimated that approximately 1.2 billion microbeads are released into Nassau County waters every year. Microbead plastic tends to absorb pollutants like pesticides, motor oil and other chemicals. They float on the surface of the water, transporting pollutants with water currents. They are consumed by filter feeders like clams and oysters, which, in turn, are eaten by humans and wildlife.
Nassau County Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Judy Jacobs and Laura Curran filed legislation several months ago to ban plastic microbeads in Nassau County, yet it wasn’t called. New York State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel also introduced similar legislation, which stalled in the Senate last year.
On Dec. 18, the U.S. Senate passed the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015 (S.1424), sponsored by U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand (NY). The Act will ban the manufacture and sale of personal cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads. The House passed companion legislation on Dec. 7. President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 28. Legislators Jacobs, DeRiggi-Whitton and Curran applaud this bi-partisan action by the Congress to clean up our waters.
“Adopting this legislation is a significant step in cleaning up our waters,” Legislator Jacobs said. “Living on an island, we have to be especially concerned with threats to our waterways.”
“Since microbeads are not essential to the production of these products and, given their harmful effects, enacting this law was so important for people, wildlife and the environment overall,” Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton said.
“Over a billion pieces of plastic on our waters every year is unacceptable,” Legislator Curran said. “When manufacturers must stop using microbeads effective July 1, 2017, this legislation will begin to reverse over a decade of pollution.”
Residents wishing to discuss this legislation or any other concern may contact their district’s legislator. Go to nassaucountyny.gov/489/county-legislature for contact information.