U.K. lawmakers called for a ban on plastic microbeads used in products such as shaving gel, exfoliating scrubs and toothpaste, saying they are harming marine life and entering the food chain.
In a report published Wednesday, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said voluntary commitments by major cosmetics firms to phase out microbeads by 2020 do not go far enough. Instead, Britain should follow the U.S. and outlaw the products by the end of 2017, it said.
“We need a full legal ban, preferably at an international level as pollution does not respect borders,” said Mary Creagh, the opposition Labour Party lawmaker who chairs the committee. “If this isn’t possible after our vote to leave the EU, then the government should introduce a national ban. The best way to reduce this pollution is to prevent plastic being flushed into the sea in the first place.”
The report cited research showing as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles have accumulated in the oceans, currently at a rate of between 80,000 tons and 219,000 tons a year in Europe. A U.S. ban was signed by President Barack Obama in December, phasing out microbeads in personal-care products by July 2017.
“Shockingly, a plate of six oysters can contain up to 50 particles of plastic,” Creagh said. “More research is needed on the impact of microplastic consumption on human health.”
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