Out, damned spots!

The California Assembly last week passed a bill by a 45-10 vote that bans microbeads from personal-care products. The proposal has gone to the state Senate for consideration. Skull and crossbonesWhat’s behind it? Microbeads, the tiny plastic abrasives found in body washes and facial scrubs, are passing through water-treatment plants and into waterways worldwide. Some scientists say the beads do more than scrub skin – they also pick up chemicals along their journey. They don’t break down, and they’re winding up in fish in our rivers, lakes and oceans and, ultimately, on our tables.

California isn’t alone in the quest to ban microbeads. In February, a similar bill was introduced in the New York Assembly. Procter&Gamble, Johnson&Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal and some other manufacturers have already committed to phasing out microbeads. Skull and crossbonesWhat can you do about this?

Foremost, stop using products containing microbeads. Even if you’re on a septic system, you cut demand by buying no more of these washes and scrubs. You may not be able to tell directly because “microbeads” are not listed as ingredients, but you can tell by sight and feel when you put a drop of the cleanser in your hands, rub it around and examine what’s there. Another clue: words on the front of the container such as the no-brainer “beads.”

Switch to products using natural elements as scrubbers: ground pits and nut shells, sugar, salt, baking soda.

For now, it may mean giving up some favorite products until and unless manufacturers switch ingredients, but it’s a small sacrifice for keeping our precious waterways clean and safe.

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