The California Assembly has approved legislation that would prohibit the manufacture and sale of personal care products that contain plastic microbeads—tiny, non-biodegradable plastic particles often added to facial scrubs, body cleansers and toothpastes—beginning January 1, 2019. The move follows similar actions already taken by personal care product manufacturers and other state legislatures (New York and Illinois—details about which appear in Issues 20 and 24 respectively, of this Report) to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics. Sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the “Microplastic Nuisance Prevention Law,” (AB 1699) passed in a 45 to 10 vote and will next move to the state Senate. If passed, the bill would fine violators $2,500 per day.

Considered an increasing environmental threat because they can slip past water treatment filters and end up in rivers and lakes, studies have shown that microbeads can absorb toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls, phenanthrene and triclosan, and be passed on to fish and other wildlife, as well as humans. Dozens of California-based organizations were reportedly involved in the bill’s passage, including advocacy groups 5 Gyres Institute, Clean Water Action and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. See, May 24, 2014.