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MADISON, Wis. -Wisconsin lawmakers are considering a ban on a popular ingredient in personal care products.

Microbeads are small pieces of plastic added to soaps, face washes and toothpastes, and are used as exfoliators. But recently, scientists have found the beads turning up in bodies of water across the country, which has prompted states to begin considering a ban on their use.

Wisconsin lawmaker Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, and Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, are introducing a measure this week that would ban the manufacture and sale of the products in the next few years.

"I was shocked to find out it was in my toothpaste," Czaja said. "I didn't know about it, and I think that's why it took me so off guard and prompted us to pursue this."

Environmental group Clean Wisconsin is pushing for the measure, saying that scientists have proven that modern wastewater treatment cannot filter out the small particles.

"There's an accumulation happening in the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan that we're very concerned about," said Amber Meyer Smith, director of programs at Clean Wisconsin.

The bill would ban the manufacture of microbeads after 2017 and the sale of products containing them after 2018.

"This allows all businesses to move away from it without harming any businesses or employees or the jobs and the economy and still gets to the root of the problem," Czaja said.

Already major manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson and L'Oreal have said they're phasing out the use of microbeads. Wisconsin would be the third state to ban the ingredient. Illinois and New Jersey implemented bans last year.

In the meantime, you may want to check your labels.

"Viewers should be looking at the ingredients of their washes and toothpaste and avoid anything that has the words polyethylene or polypropylene," Meyer Smith said. "Look for alternatives like apricot shells or sand. There are alternatives, they're just a little trickier to find, and we're excited that soon people won't have to dig so hard to find them."

While the authors worked with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce on the bill, the business group has not yet taken a position on the bill. Czaja said Monday she is "100 percent sure" the measure will pass the legislature.

In a statement Monday, Johnson & Johnson said they hoped to have new formulations out for people to use by the end of the year.

Pic: Jessica Arp

Bill could ban microbeads in personal care products

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