Microbeads getting macro attention at Minnesota Capitol

There's a good chance that the face cleanser or soap you're using may be damaging the environment, and you wouldn't even know it. Many of these products contain what's known as microbeads, and researchers say they're polluting our lakes and rivers and turning up in fish.

At the Minnesota Capitol, bills are advancing through the House and Senate to ban microbeads from products sold in Minnesota, especially since research shows the little bits of plastic are ending up in the Great Lakes.

"It's big," said Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth). "The turnover is slow and it's cold. These plastics stay suspended in Lake Superior for a long period of time."

A new study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency concludes that "a number of chemicals such as PCBs, DDT, dioxin and PAHs can be absorbed by plastic." The report warns that the chemicals could pass up the food chain "into fish and eventually into humans."

"Our position is plastic microbeads are made of plastic, and when plastic is left around in the environment it's trash, and we're against trash," said the MPCA's Greta Gauthier.

A number of major consumer product brands from L'Oreal to Crest to Johnson & Johnson and Unilever have all pledged to start phasing out microbeads from their lotions and toothpastes. But lawmakers believe legislation needs to back it up.

"We feel just having it in statute not only, one, insures that it will happen but it also, two, says that Minnesota wants to be a leader on this issue," Sen. Reinert said.

So far only Illinois has a law banning the sales and use of products with microbeads, but a number of states and Canadian provinces are looking to pass laws of their own.

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