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Long Island environmental group pushes for bill banning microbeads in cosmetics

A bill to ban plastic microbeads, as small as grains of sand, has passed in the Assembly but has stalled in the State Senate as a deadline approaches.

The Long Island-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment is pushing for the bill to be passed by the Senate by June 17. It passed in the Assembly in April.

The beads are found in some products, such as facial scrubs and toothpaste, and can pollute local waters. Microbeads have become common in personal care items over the past decade.

"We don't think that a clean face should mean polluted waters," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the environmental group and a Brookhaven resident. She was expected to be in Albany Tuesday night for Wednesday's State Senate session. "The objective here is protecting our waters, fish and shellfish from plastic contaminants."

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment has provided state legislators with research that shows how microbeads can pollute. The group advocates the use of alternative products made of apricot shells, cocoa beans and other ingredients that are biodegradable.

"I think most people don't know they are washing their face and body with plastic beads," Esposito said. "The more people know, the more they'll demand to use natural substances."

Microbeads can enter waterways through sewage plants. In an April study, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman found microbeads in wastewater samples from 25 of 34 treatment plants in 17 New York counties, including Nassau.

R. Lawrence Swanson, associate dean of Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, says the level of microbead pollution in Long Island Sound and other water bodies, such as the Erie Canal and the Hudson River, does not present a threat to people.

"I think microbeads are not there in sufficient quantity yet to cause that kind of dismay," said Swanson, who was at a news conference on a Stony Brook beach Monday.

"It's a common-sense bill that protects our waterways and health," Esposito said.


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