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Assemblymember Bloom’s Legislation to Ban on Plastic Microbeads Passes First Hurdle

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SACRAMENTO – Today, legislation by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) that would ban plastic microbeads and reduce ocean debris passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 6-3 vote.  The legislation, AB 1699, specifically bans the sale of personal care products that contain mirco-plastic particle abrasives, commonly referred to as “microbeads,” that are commonly found in products such as facial scrubs, soaps, and toothpaste.

“Microbeads are a significant part of the debris accumulating in the Pacific Ocean and are also found at alarming levels in our local waterways,” said Bloom.  “We have no choice but to eliminate this pollution at the source.  Waiting will only compound the problem and the price of cleaning up.

Microbeads have emerged as a pervasive form of plastic pollution in the marine environment.  Studies have shown that the tiny particles are prevalent in ocean debris piles, the Great Lakes, and recently, the Los Angeles River.  Mircobeads are not biodegradable and absorb various toxins such as DDT, PCBs (flame retardents), and other industrial chemicals and are ingested or absorbed by a variety of marine life and other mammals.  Because fish ingest these particles and absorb the toxins in their flesh, many in the scientific community also worry about the impacts on the fish, crabs, and shellfish that humans eat.

While tiny, the size of microbeads is actually the biggest problem.  The particles are washed down the drain and are too small to be captured by all sewage and water treatment facilities.  As a result, microbeads go directly into our rivers and streams.  A single product can contain as much as 350,000 polyethylene or polypropylene microbeads.

“The 5 Gyres Institute continues to discover and monitor garbage patches of plastic pollution around the world, yet solutions happen far upstream, at the source.  And one of those sources is California watersheds,” said Dr. Marcus Eriksen, who co-founded the 5 Gyres Institute.  “With Richard Bloom’s leadership to eradicate microbeads from consumer products, we stand to together to be a national example in the fight for plastic free waters."

However, this is not a problem without a solution.  Plastic microbeads are not essential to personal care products.  Safer and biodegradable alternatives are available such as walnut husks, pecan shells, apricot shells, and cocoa beans.  In fact, some brands already use environmentally safe alternatives and others such as the Johnson and Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, Proctor and Gamble, and Colgate-Palmolive, will begin to phase out the use of microbeads over the next few years.

“There are natural alternatives in use and others have pledged to move to natural substitutes in the near future.  Therefore, there really isn’t a good argument against this law,” Bloom added.

In addition to the bill’s sponsor, the City of Los Angeles, Heal the Bay, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Environment California, Natural Resources Defense Council and fourteen other environmental and coastal protection organizations supported the legislation.  The bill now heads to the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials for a similar hearing within the next few weeks.    

Richard Bloom chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation.  He represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacifica Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.

CONTACT: Sean MacNeil, (916) 319-2050

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