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Not So Clean, After All: New Law Bans Soaps and Other Products Containing Microbeads

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Not So Clean, After All: New Law Bans Soaps and Other Products Containing Microbeads

President Obama recently signed into law a bill that will bar certain products from being sold in U.S. stores due to the presence of an ingredient that is potentially harmful to the environment.

The White House announced that Obama affixed his signature to a law that bans a number of soaps, toothpastes, body washes and other cleansing products containing microbeads. Until recently, U.S. health officials did not believe that microbeads, miniscule plastic particles, posed a great danger to public health or the environment.

However, on the heels of a study finding that a massive amount of microbeads have ended up in Lake Erie, the federal government has decided to step in and effectively outlaw the dangerous particles as environmental hazards.

The reason the microbeads got stuck in the Great Lakes region – some estimates indicate that up to 1.7 million microbeads per square kilometer were found in Lake Erie – is that the tiny particles are almost impossible to dissolve. As a result, products that contain microbeads end up contaminating water streams because the microbeads won’t simply soften or “go away.”

Microbeads are widely used in personal care products because they function as miniature scrubbers that help to get rid of oil and dirt on a person’s skin or teeth. When used in cosmetics and makeup, microbeads function as exfoliating agents.

The problem with microbeads is that they don’t dissolve or get filtered, so they move through sewage and wastewater treatment plants and then end up causing massive water pollution on the other end when they are discharged into bodies of water, including rivers, lakes and the ocean.

In addition to contaminating water, the microbeads can cause health problems for fish and turtles who try to consume the plastic particles. Since the microbeads don’t dissipate, they get stuck in the animals’ stomachs. This can lead to serious health issues for the animals and possibly death. The Wildlife Conservation Society issued a statement noting that the microbeads can cause significant damage “to the natural environment and the wildlife that live there.”

In response to intense pressure from the government and the potential threat of product liability lawsuits, several manufacturers have pledged to immediately phase out the inclusion of microbeads in many of their products. These manufacturers include Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Procter & Gamble. Their promise to stop using microbeads is an important one because the new federal law won’t take effect until July 1, 2017.

To learn more about the government’s recent ban on certain harmful products, view the Yahoo.com article, “Here’s Why the US Government Suddenly Banned a Bunch of Soaps, Bodywashes, and Toothpastes.”

 

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