Who wants to be heard on micro-beads?

Last March I wrote about plastic micro-beads that are a new danger for our waterways.  These are the abrasive agents that have replaced natural ingredients such as baking soda in products like toothpaste and liquid soap.   At that time, parliament was debating and ultimately passing a New Democrat motion to ban micro-beads in consumer products.  Now the government is deciding how a micro-bead ban will work and are looking for input in a consultation phase.

Initial consultation was aimed at business that will implement any regulations and were by invitation only, but there is room for public input too.  That is possible through a 30 day comment period that is ongoing and will accept written submissions until March 10th.

This is important as we are learning more about micro-plastics all the time.  I say micro-plastics because according to National Geographic we should be concerned about all micro forms of the substance and not just beads.  Most notably we should be aware that synthetic clothing sheds micro plastic fibres every time they are washed. 

Micro-plastics are dangerous because in such small sizes they get confused with real food by plankton eaters which is how it enters the food chain.  Before being consumed they attract toxins which they soak up like mini sponges.  The pollution is magnified as it works its way up the food chain and ultimately onto our dinner plates. 

It is important to move quickly to nip the problem in the bud since all indications are that it is rapidly developing.  The biggest culprits are personal care products which use the plastics for convenience sake and in many cases have abandoned traditional abrasives in the process. 

If we are proceeding with a ban, Canada won’t be the first to do so.  There are States in America that have outlawed them or are considering the move.  The European Union has member countries that are calling for a ban too.  I would like to see all the Great Lakes jurisdictions get behind the notion as well.  In the face of a steamroller, business interests will do the right thing.  In fact, some of these products are already being changed.

That said we always have to watch out for business interests gaming the outcome.  That’s why the Sierra club is warning that Canadian regulations are proposing to allow microbeads that are both bigger and smaller than what has been regulated in the United States.  They want to make sure that Canada doesn’t become a dumping ground for any beads that are banned in the United States.

What do you think? There is a place for your opinion in the consultation phase.  Anyone interested can send a written submission which must be received by March 10th to: Products Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Place Vincent Massey, 9th Floor, 351 St. Joseph Boulevard, Gatineau, QC, K1A 0H3.  Or email them to: ec.produits-products.ec@canada.ca