Last Sunday, June 8th, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed bill SB 2727, making Illinois the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic microbeads in personal care products, such as toothpastes, facial scrubs, soaps, etc.
The law provides a timeline for the industry to comply. By 2017 the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads will be banned, by 2018 this will include the sale of these personal care products and the manufacture of over the counter drugs, and finally by 2019 it will expand to cover the sale of over the counter drugs.
Illinois’ abundant natural resources, particularly the Great Lakes, were a large impetus behind this legislative movement. Governor Quinn reportedly said, "Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them."
Sherri Mason, associate chemistry professor at Fredonia, compiled comprehensive field data on plastic pollution in these precious lake ecosystems. Her team found that 17,000 microplastic pieces were found per square kilometer in Lake Michigan, and even higher in Lake Ontario with up to 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometer.
While contaminating important fresh water resources, microbeads also make their way into our food system via organisms that mistake them for fish eggs or other small food sources.
These drastic effects of microbeads can be easily avoided through the use of natural alternatives, such as ground seeds or nuts; many of which are already in use.
In fact, companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Unilever, and L’Oreal have already publicly expressed plans to phase out synthetic microbeads from their products, and continue testing natural alternatives. Unilever aims for a complete global phase-out of microbeads by 2015.