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S.3932, Microbead-Free Waters Act from TI High School’s SAFE Club

June 16th, 2015 | Posted by admin

Dear Leader Flanagan and Chairman O’Mara:

We are writing to express our strong support for S.3932, the Microbead-Free Waters Act. Our club, Student Activists For the Environment (SAFE) chose microbeads as the environmental issue we would focus our attention on this year. We conducted a school-wide campaign to increase awareness of microbeads, because many students use the products with microbeads unknowingly.  We put up posters, created a FaceBook page and a petition supporting S.3932.  We were the only student group to participate in Microbead Lobbying Day in May, traveling to Albany to present our campaign.  Our school district is on the banks of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, so microbead pollution is very real to us.  Our waterways need the protection of S.3932!

According to the Office of NYS AG Eric Schneiderman. “Unseen Threat: How Microbeads Threaten New York Waters, Wildlife, Health, and Environment.” (2014), it is estimated that 19 tons of microbeads enter the wastewater stream in NY annually. A study in 2013 found as many 1.1 million microplastics per square kilometer in Lake Ontario. Since the outlet of the Great Lakes is the St. Lawrence River, all these microbeads are flowing into “our” river!

Safer, non-polluting, natural alternatives can be used as abrasives in personal care products instead of plastic microbeads. “Biodegradable” is a misleading claim.  Biodegradable plastics tend not to actually biodegrade, but instead simply break down into smaller pieces that will remain in the environment for a long time. In addition to being harmful pollutants themselves, microbeads absorb other toxic chemicals once in the environment, including PCBs and DDT, among others. Fish and other aquatic organisms, including birds and invertebrates, have been shown to ingest microbeads.  Once ingested, these pollutants move up the food chain and into our food supply.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act (S.33932) would ensure that all manufacturers eliminate the use of all plastic microbeads in a timely manner, before additional damage is done. The timing of the ban is critical, starting in 2016.    This ban would include so called “biodegradable plastics.”  New York’s Microbead-Free Waters Act would “raise the bar” on the Illinois law, effectively driving the market toward safer alternatives throughout the nation and beyond. The bill already includes compromises to address industry concerns, including an exemption for prescription medications, and providing an extra year before the ban takes effect for products that require FDA approval.

With 37 Senate cosponsors and the near unanimous passage in the Assembly earlier this year, we urge the Senate to schedule a floor vote before you depart Albany on June 17.  This legislation has broad, bipartisan support from senators of every region and across the political spectrum. There is no acceptable reason to keep it from receiving a fair floor vote.

We strongly urge the Senate to pass S.3932 this year, protecting New Yorkers from the negative health and environmental impacts of microbead pollution.

Sincerely,

Student Activists For the Environment (SAFE) Club

Thousand Islands High School

Clayton, NY 13624

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