The waters of Lake Erie are seen along the beach in Erieau on August 24, 2014. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Microbead Ban To Take Effect Next Year

After years of fighting to have microbeads banned from personal care products, Windsor West MP Brian Masse is declaring victory.

The federal government has changed regulations to ban the manufacture of microbeads in Canadian consumer products starting January 1, 2018, and ban the sale of them on July 1.

Masse worked to have the tiny pieces of plastic added to the country’s List of Toxic Substances. That allowed the government to impose the regulations.

However, some medical products could be exempt from the ban.

“Health Canada will have a review process for those,” says Masse. “There’s also some natural products… there has to be appropriate justification.”

The trouble with microbeads is they are washed down the drain and end up in lakes and rivers where fish and birds confuse them with food. Eventually, wildlife dies of starvation.

Microbeads were found in all of the Great Lakes, but according to a study by the 5 Gyres Institute, Lake Erie had the highest concentration, an average of 466,000 particles/km2. The impact on the fishery could be devastating.

Masse says the ban is just the first step, but he admits a set goal to lower concentrations “hasn’t been thought through.”

So far, nine U.S. states including Illinois have banned microbeads, but Masse says a country-wide ban will be much more effective.

“This is important for the distribution because you could have some products sold in other parts of Canada end up in our areas,” he says.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to ban microbeads, and the United Kingdom plans to enact a ban by the end of the year.