Consumer products such as toothpaste and cosmetic scrubs containing tiny plastic "microbeads" could be banned from store shelves in Maryland after 2018 under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate.
Environmentalists hailed the vote for SB200 as a blow for reducing plastic pollution in state waters and the Chesapeake Bay.
Widely used as abrasives or exfoliants in products such as acne wash and dandruff shampoo, microbeads have become an issue because they pass through sewage treatment plants to get into rivers, streams, and the seas. Because of their size, they're easily ingested by fish of all types, and often carry with them toxic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs
If the bill also passes the House, Maryland could become the second state after Illinois to order a phase-out of the manufacture or sale of consumer products containing the beads. Lawmakers in other states are weighing similar action, as is Congress.
Makers of many dental and personal care products already are voluntarily moving to eliminate or replace the synthetic beads with natural ones made of ground seeds or nuts. They did not oppose the Maryland legislation when introduced because the deadlines for getting plastic microbeads out of their products were generally in line with their announced plans.
The Senate bill was amended, though, to get the beads out of over-the-counter medications by the end of 2018, a year earlier than originally proposed.