As of July 1, Canada has banned the manufacture, import, and sale of personal care products that contain microbeads, with the exception of natural health products and non-prescription drugs.
The ban came into effect after the federal government amended the Environmental Protection Act to include plastic microbeads that are five millimetres in size or larger in its list of toxic substances.
Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change, made the official announcement over Twitter on Canada Day.
— Catherine McKenna 🇨🇦 (@cathmckenna) July 1, 2018
Microbeads are often added to personal care products to exfoliate or cleanse the body.
But rather than being absorbed by the skin, they’re usually washed off down the drain and into the natural environment where they take years to fully dissolve.
“Due to their physical and chemical properties, plastic microbeads may slip through wastewater treatment plants and end up in rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans,” a government report reads. “Available scientific documents indicate that plastic microbeads contribute to the volume of plastic litter in the environment and that the continued use of plastic microbeads in personal care products will result in their increased presence in the environment.”
Studies have shown that beads have adverse short-term and long-term effects on aquatic ecosystems, and are often consumed by wildlife.
A full ban on microbead products, including natural health products and non-prescription drugs, will take effect on July 1, 2019.