Boy taking a bath
A Palestinian boy washes himself near his family's dwelling on a hot day in Beit Lahiya, near the border between Israel and northern Gaza Strip April 7, 2013. Reuters/Mohammed Salem (GAZA - Tags: SOCIETY POVERTY)

A new legislation has been passed by the California State Senate to ban the sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads on Friday, Sept 4. The amended bill would prohibit the use of microbeads due to officials found it harmful on the marine life and human health by polluting rivers and oceans.

According to a press release, the bill was approved even a day after the Senate has failed to meet the votes needed. The lawmakers driving the bill were supported by over 75 water agencies, environmental and health advocacy organisations, and green businesses throughout California.

Proposed to be effective by 2020, the legislation aims to aid eliminate billions of plastic microbeads dumped into California’s freshwater and marine environments every day. The officials said that microbeads can cause negative impacts on the human health when fish and other organisms ingest it as a food.

The toxins may prompt contamination on the marine environment. Plastic microbeads were designed to pass through the drain that were added to facial scrubs, toothpastes and other personal care products as colorants.

Local waterways and the ocean may be affected as the microbeads are so small that can rarely be captured by wastewater filters, according to the Clean Water Action and the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, or CASA. The plastic microbeads can attract other chemicals such as PCBs and flame retardants on the surface of the water after it escapes the wastewater treatment.

There are about 350,000 microbeads in a single product, which Richard Bloom, Assembly member and author of the bill, said that continuing to use the harmful and unnecessary microbeads, even if natural alternatives are widely available, “is simply irresponsible.” The use of the microbeads-containing products would result in significant clean-ups costs to taxpayers to restore the already limited water resources and ocean health, he added.

“Toxic microbeads are accumulating in our rivers, lakes and oceans at alarmingly high levels. We can and must act now,” Bloom said. The officials suggest for more use of natural alternatives such as apricot shells and cocoa beans, which have been successfully used instead of plastic microbeads in personal care products.

The bill, if signed by the California Governor Jerry Brown, would prevent 38 tonnes of plastic pollution out of the state’s water environment each year.

“I am confident that, if the governor signs this bill, future generations will look back and wonder why these tiny pieces of plastic were ever even considered for use in products that are designed to be washed down the drain,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste and sponsor of the bill.

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