The microbead ban: It’s the little things

The microbead ban: It’s the little things

Could the stuff you’re washing your face with end up in your sushi? It sounds crazy, but yes.

We don’t often agree with legislators who want to add more restrictions to businesses, but a recently approved law, drafted by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), tries to take tiny pieces of plastic out of the equation.

The culprit is known as microbeads, which are used as exfoliants and are becoming more and more common in personal care products like facial scrubs and toothpastes. The tiny particles are too small for our treatment plants to filter out of wastewater, so they pick up toxins and are discharged into our waterways. Small creatures confuse them with food and ingest them, and those small creatures are consumed by larger creatures — which then reach us at the top of the food chain.

Hahn’s law passing this week means products containing microbeads are going to start disappearing from Suffolk County shelves, with complete removal by 2018.

While some of us may lose our exfoliant, we will all gain a healthier water supply and environment. It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make, because without it, we may not have the clean water we need to exfoliate with in the first place.