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Illinois May Have Just Banned Your Favorite Face Wash

06/10/2014 09:23 am ET | Updated Jun 10, 2014
Scott Kleinman via Getty Images

Illinois has become the first state in the nation to bid good-bye to the bead.

Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Sunday signed a law that bans the sale and manufacture of products containing microbeads, the tiny synthetic exfoliants found in everyday person hygiene products like face wash, body soap and toothpaste.

“Banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow,” Quinn said in a statement Sunday. “Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them."

With some popular facial cleansers containing as many as 300,000 microbeads in a single container, environmentalists worry the non-biodegradable beads -- which are small enough to bypass sewer and water treatment filters -- will wreak havok on the water supply.

Environmental advocates say microbeads can absorb toxins and harm fish and other wildlife, along with humans who may consume them. Tests have already shown a microbead presence in the Great Lakes, the Los Angeles River and waterways in New York City.

As states like California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio consider microbead bans of their own, critics of Illinois' new law say the ban's long rollout doesn't address the problem quickly enough.

Under the Illinois regulations, companies have until the end of 2017 to stop manufacturing microbead-laden products. Businesses have until 2018 to stop selling products with microbeads, and a ban on the sale of over-the-counter drugs with microbeads will come by 2019.

New York's proposed microbead ban has a comparitively more advanced phase-out deadlineof 2016.

In anticipation of more bans, several major companies behind some of the most popular mass-market personal care products are planning to phase out microbeads on their own. According to the Tribune, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and L'Oreal have floated plans to use materials like ground seeds or nuts as natural alternatives to microbeads.

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