MURPHY, GILLIBRAND, BLUMENTHAL CALL FOR RETAIL BOYCOTT OF HARMFUL PLASTIC MICROBEADS THREATENING LONG ISLAND SOUND

Last month, Southern Connecticut State University researchers discovered microbeads in Long Island Sound; Senators call for retailers to discontinue the sale of products containing these harmful products

WASHINGTON — Today, in response to a Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) study that revealed that plastic microbeads are affecting the Long Island Sound, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), together with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), called on the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) to urge their members to discontinue the sale of products containing polyethylene and polypropylene plastic microbeads. In a letter to RILA President, Sandy Kennedy, and NRF President and CEO, Matthew R. Shay, the senators emphasized the pernicious effects of these plastic microbeads, which are typically found in personal care products, on aquatic life, water quality, and public health. Highlighting that the Connecticut General Assembly and retailers including Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and L’Oreal have already taken steps to phase out microbeads, the senators also requested that the trade associations push their members to follow their lead and curb the availability of harmful plastic microbeads in U.S. retail stores. 

The senators wrote, “Recently, Southern Connecticut State University researchers confirmed that Long Island Sound is not safe from the estimated eight trillion microbeads that flow into the aquatic habitat in the United States each day. These particles can permanently threaten aquatic life and enter the food chain. As the primary trade associations representing the largest retailers in the U.S., you are in a unique position to decrease the availability and use of products that contain microbeads. Therefore, we urge you to push your members to discontinue the sale of products that contain microbeads. We urge you to wield your influence to curb the availability of these harmful products in U.S. stores.”

“Our Sound faces serious challenges, like nitrogen pollution that can suffocate swimming creatures and unhealthy levels of bacteria that make our waters unsafe for people. But every so often, a problem comes around with an easy solution—like microbeads,” said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “We already know the sources of microbeads—hygiene and beauty products. We know there are natural substitutes that many companies are already using. We know the damage that they’re doing to the animals of our oceans and Long Island Sound. With strong leadership, like that of Senator Murphy, the state Environment Committee, and the entirety of the Connecticut and New York legislatures, we can tackle this problem and remove billions of tiny plastic beads that form a huge source of plastic from our waters.”  

The full text of the letter is below:

Matthew R. Shay                                                                 Sandy Kennedy
President and CEO                                                               President
National Retail Federation                                                      Retail Industry Leaders Association
1101 New York Ave NW                                                         1700 N. Moore Street, Suite 2250
Washington, DC 20005                                                          Arlington, VA 22209                

Dear Mr. Shay and Ms. Kennedy,

Mounting evidence suggests that the polyethylene and polypropylene plastic microbeads found in personal care products ultimately have a pernicious effect on aquatic life, water quality, and public health. As the primary trade associations representing the largest retailers in the United States, you are in a unique position to decrease the availability and use of products that contain microbeads. Therefore, we urge you to push your members to discontinue the sale of products that contain microbeads from companies that have not made a commitment to phase out the use of these particles.

Recently, Southern Connecticut State University researchers found the first evidence of microbeads in Long Island Sound, which serves as both a regional natural treasure and an invaluable economic resource in the Northeast region. This development confirmed what was long believed—that Long Island Sound is not safe from the estimated eight trillion microbeads that flow into the aquatic habitat in the United States each day.

Due to their tiny size, microbeads often cannot be successfully removed from wastewater streams by municipal sewage plants. Just one personal care product can contain hundreds of thousands of these beads, which typically do not biodegrade, as they require high heat processing to break down. As these particles pass from a consumer’s sink through wastewater plants and into nearby lakes, rivers, and oceans, they can permanently threaten aquatic life and enter the food chain.

The Connecticut General Assembly has already taken action to protect Connecticut’s waterways and Long Island Sound by passing legislation to ban the sale of products that contain microbeads by 2019. Unilever, a multi-national corporation whose U.S. headquarters are based in Connecticut, has pledged to completely phase out microbeads from all of their products by 2015. Johnson & Johnson and L’Oreal have also begun voluntarily eliminating the use of microbeads in their products. We urge you to follow the lead of these institutions by wielding your influence to curb the availability of these harmful products in U.S. stores.


Sincerely,

Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator