WATCH: Some politicians considering microbeads ban in Monroe County

Sep 15, 2015

Sherri Mason (left), NY Environmental Scientist, SUNY Fredonia
Credit ASSOCIATED PRESS | SUNY FREDONIA

Monroe County politicians are weighing in against the sale of cosmetic products containing microbeads, following the lead of Erie County.  

Last month Western New York’s most populous county signed a ban on the tiny plastic balls found in things like facial scrubs and toothpaste. It will take effect in January 2016.

Under legislation sponsored by Democrat Dorothy Styk, Monroe County would fine the sale of products containing microbeads up to $1,000 for the first offense and up to $2,000 for the second offense.

Microbeads are used as an alternative to rougher natural exfoliants in a variety of personal care products. They also accumulate in waterways and enter the food chain. 

Monroe County legislator Carrie Andrews is optimistic the measure makes “good sense” and would receive bipartisan support.

“I talked with a rep at Erie County to learn more and we have been discussing it locally,” says Andrews.

“We need to figure out if [legislation] would be introduced as is, if we would need to make changes to suit Monroe County, and if we’d have majority support.”  

SUNY Fredonia professor Sherri Mason obtained a grant to study the microbeads problem and, over the years, has integrated her research with other Great Lakes issues.

“The size of the microbeads is so incredibly small that that makes them very easy to be ingested by organisms that live in the water,” says Mason. 

The microbeads are not toxic themselves, but scientists say they absorb chemicals from the water and enter the food chain when they're ingested by fish and birds. Mason discovered that 25 species of fish examined in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario all showed evidence of the plastic particles in their intestinal tracts. 

Watch as experts break down the microbead problem on WXXI-TV's Need To Know

Watch a clip of a news conference where the ban on Microbeads was introduced by the Democratic Party

Watch as legislator Dorothy Styk explains why the push to ban microbeads should start at the local level