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AG: Microbeads pass through water treatment sites nationwide

April 28th, 2015 | Posted by Lee
Published: Monday April 27, 2015 by the Watertown Daily Times

A new study of dozens of water treatment facilities across New York indicate micro­beads, minuscule plastics found in many grooming products, are slipping through safeguards and entering area waterways.

Of the 34 treatment sites tested, 25 — or 74 percent — were found to be discharging microbeads.

The study, commissioned in late 2014 by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, was released Monday.

“Today’s report confirms that from Lake Erie to the Long Island Sound, microbeads … are finding their way into waters across New York State,” he said in a statement.

In Northern New York, water samples in Potsdam and Westport turned up microbeads, while samples in Chateaugay and Lake Placid did not.

Groups such as Save the River have said microbeads have made their way up Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River.

The plastics can connect with longstanding industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls and poison small organisms like zooplankton, which leads to negative effects across food chains.

Mr. Schneiderman has pushed the state Legislature to ban products containing the items, noting last year that 19 tons of the microbeads are washed into waterways in New York annually.

The plastics can affect the environment for centuries, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Items in which the plastics can be found include toothpaste, soap and facial cleansers. Consumers can determine if their products have microbeads by looking for ingredients such as polyethylene or polypropylene.

The plastics are used as an alternative to natural abrasives like ground walnut shells and sea salt.

Multiple companies, including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have already committed to phasing out the products within the next few years.

On Wednesday, a bill banning the plastics in New York passed the state Assembly.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand also introduced legislation last year to address microbeads, but the bill was unsuccessful.

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