The California Senate Committee on Environmental Quality today passed AB 888 (Bloom), legislation that would ban plastic microbeads from toothpaste, facial scrubs and other personal care products. CAW and other sponsors of the bill testified in support.
Plastic microbeads measure less than 5 millimeters in diameter and are added to personal care products as exfoliants or colorants. Plastic microbeads are also found in some toothpastes, despite periodontal health concerns from dentists and consumers and the fact that there is no known benefit to their use. Plastic microbeads are so small that they are often not captured by wastewater filters according to the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, a sponsor of the bill. Other sponsors of AB 888 include Clean Water Action, the 5 Gyres Institute and the Story of Stuff Project.
After they are flushed into sewers, plastic microbeads begin attracting environmental toxins to their surfaces and are eventually eaten by fish and other animals that mistake them for food, thus polluting the food chain. Scientists estimate that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay every day. In 2012, research conducted by the 5 Gyres Institute showed there were more than 450,000 plastic microbeads per square kilometer in parts of Lake Erie.
There are many natural alternatives, such as apricot shells and cocoa beans, which are already used instead of plastic microbeads in facial scrubs and other personal care products. AB 888 is supported by over 40 water agencies and environmental and health advocacy organizations throughout California. The law would go into effect January 1, 2020.
AB 888 now goes to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and, if approved, goes to the Senate floor. Last year, a similar bill passed the Assembly but fell just one vote short on the Senate floor.