Illinois has taken a veritable beating lately in local and national press for its many challenges. On one public health issue, though, Illinois is way ahead of the rest of the nation and deserves some positive attention for its leadership. Gov. Pat Quinn has signed legislation that will ban the production or sale of cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.
Sound silly? It's not. The microscopic plastic microbeads found in many popular soaps and cleansers pose a real threat to both water and soil. These microbeads are not biodegradable. They are so tiny that they are able to pass right through the filters used to treat our wastewater. Once in local waterways, they can soak up toxins like pesticides and PCBs. Fish can mistake the tainted microbeads for food, resulting in the microbeads entering the human food chain. A single container of facial cleanser or body wash can contain hundreds of thousands of these tiny and dangerous particles.
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So kudos to Gov. Quinn, state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Jaime Andrade Jr. for spearheading the nation's first ban on these insidious additives. On this public health issue, Illinois has taken the lead and other states are sure to follow. We'll all be safer as a result.
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago