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Albany County Legislature Passes Microbeads Ban

Microbeads are found in personal-care products, including toothpaste and facial scrubs. Credit: Dantor/Wikimedia Commons
Microbeads are found in personal-care products, including toothpaste and facial scrubs. Credit: Dantor/Wikimedia Commons
November 11, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. - Albany County is on track to be the fifth county in the state to ban products containing microbeads. The county legislature passed a bill Monday night banning the sale of products containing the tiny plastic particles.

Microbeads are used as exfoliants in a wide variety of personal-care products, including toothpaste and facial scrubs. Once microbeads wash down the drain, said Saima Anjam, environmental health director for Environmental Advocates of New York, they absorb toxics in the water.

"They collect PCBs, motor oil, pesticides, you name it," she said. "They are consumed by worms, by mussels, by fish, and then we eat the fish and they travel up the food chain."

About 19 tons of microbeads end up in New York wastewater every year. A statewide ban had broad, bipartisan support but failed to make it through the state Senate.

At least six states have laws restricting the use of microbeads in products, and some manufacturers have agreed to remove them voluntarily. Anjam said a variety of environmentally sound exfoliants can be used instead.

"We're talking about sea salt, sugar, oatmeal, ground-up walnut shells," she said. "There are a lot of alternatives out there and already available on the store shelves."

Several other counties and New York City now are considering bans. If County Executive Daniel McCoy signs the Albany bill, it will go into effect six months later.

More information is online at ag.ny.gov.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY