New US legislation aims to ban the tiny pieces of plastic found in soap, toothpaste and body washes, known as microbeads, which pollute waterways and oceans, and spread throughout the food chain. Microbeads, which are typically smaller than a pinhead, are causing significant environmental problems. They flow into rivers, lakes, and streams, where they can be mistaken for food by fish, leading to the spread of pollutants throughout the food chain, including to humans,” the Guardian newspaper reported on January 9. The US House of Representatives bill, backed by a bipartisan committee, will now go to the Senate for approval, the Guardian said. The Microbead-Free Waters Act would start the phase-out of the tiny pieces of plastic beginning 1 July 2017.
Microbeads are causing significant problems in the Great Lakes. Research conducted in 2013 by the State University of New York found that the lakes were riddled with microbeads, with Lake Ontario containing an estimated 1.1m plastic particles per square kilometer. Global companies such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Beiersdorf, and the Body Shop have already started phasing out microbeads from their products.
On another note, the Environmental Working Group in the US (EWG) said that the FDA has banned three Toxic Chemicals from food wrapping, but it’s too little, too late.
Under pressure from EWG and other environmental and health groups, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is banning three grease-resistant chemical substances linked to cancer and birth defects from use in pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, sandwich wrappers and other food packaging.
“Industrial chemicals that pollute people’s blood clearly have no place in food packaging,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “But it’s taken the FDA more than ten years to figure that out, and it is banning only three chemicals that aren’t even made anymore.”
The packaging substances banned by FDA, in an order that takes effect immediately, are perfluorinated compounds or PFCs, a class that includes the chemicals used to make DuPont’s Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard. Through their use in thousands of consumer products, PFCs have polluted the blood of virtually all Americans. They can be passed through the umbilical cord to the fetus. They contaminate drinking water for more than 6.5 million people in 27 states, according to water tests conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.