U.S. follows New Jersey’s lead in banning microbeads

  A sample of 'microbeads' collected in eastern Lake Erie is shown on the face of a penny. (AP Photo/Courtesy 5gyres.org/ Carolyn Box, file)

A sample of 'microbeads' collected in eastern Lake Erie is shown on the face of a penny. (AP Photo/Courtesy 5gyres.org/ Carolyn Box, file)

A New Jersey congressman is pleased that President Barack Obama has signed the legislation he sponsored to phase out the use of microbeads in consumer products.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone said the tiny plastic particles in many face washes, shampoos, and other beauty products wash down the drain are not filtered out by sewage-treatment systems.

“They get into the water, the get eaten by fish or other marine mammals, and then, ultimately, they can come back and get into human consumption — and there is absolutely no need for them,” he said Tuesday.

The new federal law bans the manufacture of products containing microbeads by July 2017. That’s a year sooner than required by the New Jersey law enacted earlier this year.

Pallone said some companies have already started using natural alternatives that are just as effective and are better for the environment.

“Plastic gets into the water in many ways,” he said. “I mean microbeads are one part of it, and, hopefully, this sets a precedent to try to phase out other plastics.”

Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, said the federal law will help. But more needs to be done to protect the marine environment, she said.

“Our oceans are awash in plastics, and these things are getting into the food chain,” she said. “It’s just a matter of time before they cause significant loss of marine life health and then, ultimately, our health.”

Clean Ocean Action is urging consumers to reduce their use of disposal plastic products that add to pollution problems.

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