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Pallone, Diegnan Highlight Harmful Effects of Plastic Microbeads on Fish, NJ Waterways

March 10, 2015
Press Release

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) visited Spring Lake Park to discuss the dangers posed by synthetic plastic microbeads commonly used as exfoliants in cosmetics and personal care products, like face wash, soap, and toothpaste.  These small bits of plastic can slip through water treatment systems after they are washed down the drain.  As a result, these microbeads often end up in local streams, rivers and larger bodies of water. 

The lawmakers highlighted the harmful effects that microbeads have on the environment, as well as fish and other organisms that often mistake the small bits of plastic for food.  Pallone and Diegnan were joined by Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ron Rios, Jim Walsh of Food & Water Watch, and Sandra Meola of NY/NJ Baykeeper.

Last week, Pallone introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads.  Last year, Diegnan helped to ensure passage of a similar bill in the New Jersey State Legislature that would ban the manufacturing of products with microbeads in the Garden State and prohibit them from being sold in New Jersey by 2018. 

“This plastic that is polluting our environment is found in products specifically designed to be washed down shower drains,” said Pallone.  “And many people buying these products are unaware of their damaging effects.  By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it’s too late.  I thank Assemblyman Diegnan for advancing this critical legislation here in New Jersey, and look forward to continuing to work together to prevent this unnecessary pollution on the national level.”

“I applaud Congressman Pallone for recognizing the ill effects that microbeads have on our environment and standing with what we have done in New Jersey as we take steps to curb its use,” said Diegnan.  “When we ban these products on the federal level, we are forever preserving our national environmental heritage by protecting integral marine life and the fishing industry that is important to local and state economies.”

The State of Illinois recently passed a law banning the sale of products containing plastic microbeads by the end of 2017, and a number of other states are considering similar bans.  Natural alternatives to plastic microbeads already exist in the market, and some companies, like Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson, have already started the process of phasing out the harmful plastic in their products.