The Great Lakes Have a Microbead Problem

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New York legislators are working toward enacting a ban on products containing "microbeads" - those little plastic balls that show up in, say, your favorite toothpaste. The rationale is that those microbeads end up in bodies of water like New York's Lake Ontario or our very own Lake Erie. According to scientists cited by the New York Times, there are tens of millions of these little bastards floating in the Great Lakes right now.

According to at least one study of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie came out as the more plastic-polluted than Huron or Superior. In that three-lake study, samples were taken from 21 points in the water. Two samples taken downstream from Cleveland and Detroit account for 85 percent of all plastic gather in the study, according to the Huffington Post.

Relatively little is known about plastic pollution in freshwater sources. The Burning River Foundation funded the three-lake study by 5 Gyres Institute, which expanded the general knowledge base. EcoWatch has the lowdown on where we stand:

Several states and municipalities are interested in banning micro-plastics in consumer products. 5 Gyres is working with a team of advisors to produce model legislation for states to consider.

5 Gyres Institute has launched a microsite as well as an international mobile app, Beat The Microbead, which allows consumers to scan the barcode of personal care products to determine whether they contain plastic microbeads and whether the manufacturer has agreed to remove them.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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