Study: Microbeads in majority of samples from 34 N.Y. wastewater-treatment plants

By Shaun Zinck | Apr 21, 2015

A recent study has detected the presence of plastic microbeads in 74 percent of samples taken at 34 wastewater treatment plants across the state.   Contributed photo

A historic study in New York has uncovered the presence of microbeads in 74 percent of samples taken from 34 wastewater-treatment plants around the state, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Monday, upon releasing the findings from the report.

Microbeads are tiny plastic abrasives usually found in beauty and personal-care products. Schneiderman said the beads are “systematically” running through the treatment plants and entering other bodies of water in the state.

He said plastic bits “act like sponges” when in lakes and oceans, and attract toxic chemicals that threaten wildlife health if the pieces are ingested. Dr. Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia assisted Schneiderman's office in the study, looking at samples from 34 municipal and private treatment plants around New York.

“Today’s report confirms that from Lake Erie to the Long Island Sound, microbeads, a harmful form of plastic pollution, are finding their way into waters across New York State,” Schneiderman said. “New York has been at the forefront of national progress when it comes to combating plastic pollution, and we need to continue this leadership by passing legislation that will prevent microbeads from contaminating our waters, and threatening the health of both New Yorkers and their environment.”

The study follows a bill Schneiderman sent to legislators last year that would prohibit microbeads from being less than 5 millimeters in size.

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