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New York looks to ban plastic microbeads found in face scrubs

Researchers and politicians claim face wash microbeads are bypassing water treatment plants, polluting waterways.

By Brooks Hays

ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Exfoliating your skin apparently comes with an environmental cost, at least according to research conducted by chemistry professor Sheri Mason, who found large quantities of the beads in Lake Erie.

News of the collecting plastic moved New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to call for legislation banning the microbeads.

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Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk, heeded Scheiderman's call and this week introduced the Microbead-Free Waters Act.

Schneiderman called it “common-sense legislation” in a statement released today.

The beads were first noticed by Mason and her class when, attempting to determine how much plastic was in Lake Erie, they oxidized large globs of “green sludge” collected from the lake. Oxidizing is a process that helps remove organic materials.

What they found, once the plant materials had been removed, were tons and tons of little, perfectly round, plastic balls.

Mason knew right away what they were. “You go, ‘Oh my gosh. These are microbeads.’ You know them when you see them," she told ABC News. "They’re so perfectly round, and they’re brightly colored.”

The Attorney General's office said other toxic chemicals can accumulate along with the microbeads and can be eaten by fish and end up in the food supply.

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If the new legislation passes, manufacturers would have until 2015 to phase out their use of the plastic beads. Unilever, which owns soap brands like Dove, Pond’s and Caress, has already pledged to rid their products of the plastic beads by 2015. Many face scrubs already use natural exfoliants like salt and walnut pieces.

[ABC News]

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