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Microbeads may be banned

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press

DENVER — Colorado may be the latest state to ban tiny plastic particles that are often included in soaps and cosmetic products.

The so-called “microbeads” turn up in face scrubs, acne treatments and toothpaste. The particles are too fine to be caught in wastewater treatment plants, and the plastic bits can pollute lakes and rivers.

A Colorado bill to ban the microbeads by 2020 has won preliminary approval in the House and faces a final vote before heading to the Senate.

“These tiny plastic beads are washed directly down the drain and into our water systems, where they harm our waterways and the animals that live there,” said Rep. Dianne Primavera, D-Broomfield and sponsor of the bill.

The microbeads are about the size of fish eggs and can be swallowed by aquatic life, leaving them with plastic bits they can’t digest.

The microbeads ban has the backing of large personal-care product manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson. The companies supporting the ban say they are already replacing plastic microbeads with biodegradable exfoliators.

“Once they heard there was a problem with the water-treatment facilities, they thought, whoa, what can we do differently?” said Cathy Wanstrath, a lobbyist for the Personal Care Products Council, which represents the manufacturers.

Two other states have already banned microbeads. Dozens more states are considering joining Illinois and New Jersey.

“We’re trying as an association to get this introduced and passed in as many states as possible,” Wanstrath told Colorado lawmakers.

The measure faced some skepticism from Republicans, though some voted for it. Those that didn’t said that if makers of the soaps and lotions are already taking out plastic bits, there doesn’t need to be a law banning them.

“Market forces should control this, more than the industry cutting a deal with the environmental people,” said Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton.

California legislators rejected a ban last year. A microbeads ban has been proposed in Congress without coming to a vote.


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