By Alexandra Sifferlin
Illinois is the first state to ban tiny plastic microbeads in cosmetics like face wash, which damage marine life.
Exfoliating microbeads, which are tiny bits of plastic, in your face wash are causing some serious damage to your skin and environment, and states are starting to crack down.
This month, Illinois banned the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, becoming the first state to legally take a strong stance against what researchers are calling a serious environmental problem. The plastic waste caused by the microbeads, which are not filtered out during sewage treatment, are damaging water ecosystems. A report recent published by the U.N. Environment Programme says plastic waste causes $13 billion in damage every year to marine life.
Since the beads are so small, fish and other marine life easily swallow them, causing DNA damage and even death. A 2008 study from UK researchers showed that the plastics remained inside mussels for 48 days. Last year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Superior reported at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society that there were 1,500 to 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile in the Great Lakes.
The Illinois ban is encouraging for other states pushing similar laws, and the fact that Illinois’ new ban had industry players on board means cooperation is possible in other regions, too. “This was a cooperative effort with the industry in order to address our and their concerns,” says Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. “In the end, we were trying to get something that would pass. Other states should try for more stringent standards.”