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Ottawa plans to ban microbeads over environmental concerns


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August 5, 2015 by Canadian Plastics

The Canadian government is moving to ban microbeads, tiny plastic particles found in a number of personal care products that can end up in rivers, lakes and oceans after they’re washed down the drain.

The government is proposing to add microbeads to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act’s list of toxic substances and develop regulations that would prohibit the manufacture, import and sale and personal care products containing microbeads, Minister of Labour and Minister on the Status of Women Dr. K. Kellie Leitch said on behalf of Environment Leona Aglukkaq in a July 30 press release.

A scientific review that included analysis of over 130 scientific papers and consulting experts revealed that microbeads “may have long-term effects on biological diversity and ecosystems,” the release said.

Microbeads are tiny polymer particules between 0.1 micrometres and 5 mm in diameter, and are commonly used in lotions, makeup, toothpastes and soaps as exfoliants. The beads end up going down the drain and, too small for filters in most wastewater treatment plants to catch, end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. Algae and bacteria then grow over the beads, which sink to the bottom and are eaten by small, bottom-dwelling fish.

In March, New Democrat MP Megan Leslie introduced a motion in the House of Commons calling for microbeads to be added to the list of toxic substances named under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which passed with unanimous support, while Liberal MP John McKay introduced a private member’s bill in May to amend the Food and Drugs Act to ban the sale of cosmetics containing plastic measuring 5 mm or smaller.

“Banning microbeads from personal care products will help us to continue protecting the environment for present and future generations,” Leitch said in the July 30 statement. “We will continue to take action to keep Canada’s lakes and rivers clean, and put the priorities of Canadians first.”