The commentary “ Ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics” (Viewpoints, Aug. 1) was long on rhetoric and short on perspective.
Despite a lack of scientific evidence linking plastic microbeads in cosmetics to any serious problem, the makers of cosmetics have nonetheless been seeking ways to eliminate plastic microbeads from their products.
Earlier this year, the industry worked collaboratively and constructively with environmental groups and Illinois state legislators to pass a landmark phase-out of plastic microbeads due to concern the beads – used in facial scrubs and other products – were ending up in the Great Lakes.
The effort serves as a model for how all stakeholders can work together to address a public policy concern. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case with Assembly Bill 1699 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. This bill would not only ban plastic microbeads in products where there is no risk of contact with water, but also ban the use of natural bead alternatives made from beeswax, rice bran wax, jojoba oil, starches derived from corn, tapioca and carnauba, seaweed, clay and other natural compounds. These alternatives can provide the necessary attributes that certain cosmetic products need to function properly.
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The language of the bill creates unintended consequences. Among its flaws, AB 1699:
• Would effectively ban thousands of products that never come into contact with waterways, lakes or oceans.
• Conflicts with the Illinois law, creating a lack of uniformity that will confuse consumers and may limit access here to safe, high-quality products available to every other American.
• Doesn’t include any provisions recognizing that future technologies may evolve over time to meet acceptable standards of being “marine biodegradable.”
• Will cost taxpayers by expanding the scope of products and increasing costs for enforcement.
More research needs to be done on how microbeads end up California waterways, especially given that the sanitation operations chief for the city of Los Angeles is on record saying microbeads cannot pass through the city’s filters; this raises serious questions about the bill’s effectiveness.
As currently drafted, AB 1699 should not continue to move forward until all stakeholders can come to an agreement. If state lawmakers are serious about a ban, they should exercise a common-sense approach to limit a ban to real plastic – not a wide range of natural alternatives.
The nation’s personal care products industry has already proven its earnest commitment to addressing the microbeads issue. It’s time for AB 1699 supporters to do the same.