Study finds plastic microbeads are entering waterways

Apr 21, 2015

A new form of plastic pollution is showing up in waterways across New York. A study released by the office of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found microbeads in three-quarters of the samples collected from wastewater treatment plants statewide.

"Sewage treatment plants are simply not designed to capture microbeads," said Jennifer Nalbone, an Environmental Scientist with the Attorney General's office.

Microbeads are commonly found in consumer products found on store shelves.
Credit File photo

"The solution to this new form of plastic pollution clearly lies in source control: stopping the plastic microbeads from going down the drain in the first place."

Most people are probably not aware of the amount of plastic pollution they're washing down the drain everyday.  The microbeads are found in many types of personal care products and they easily slip through wastewater treatment plants. In fact a 2014 study estimated 19 tons a year are going down the drain.

While some companies have voluntarily removed the plastics from their products, Nalbone says more action is necessary.

"Attorney General Schneiderman has introduced legislation on the state level to provide a level playing field and ban plastic microbeads on all personal care products sold in the state," Nalbone said.

According to Nalbone,  legacy toxic chemicals in the water like PCBs and DDT can also accumulate on the plastic.