WATCH ABOVE: Peter Kim reports on why the NDP wants to ban microbeads from personal care products.
The NDP is calling on the federal government to list microbeads, which are used in cosmetic products like body wash and toothpaste, as a potential toxic substance.
An opposition motion, tabled by NDP MP Megan Leslie and to be debated tomorrow in the House of Commons, says microbeads “could have serious harmful effects and therefore the government should take immediate measures to add microbeads to the list of toxic substances managed by the government under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.”
According to Leslie, “the smartest thing to do is to actually ban these microbeads.”
Environmental groups have been sounding the alarm for some time about microbeads. The tiny plastic flakes are commonly made from polyethylene, the same type of plastic used to make shopping bags and garbage bins. They are added to body products to act as an exfoliant, meant to wash away dead skin cells.
Health Canada says the beads are safe for use as an additive in cosmetics and food. But Megan Leslie says they pose a danger once they are washed down the drain and into various waterways.
“They are toxic. We are seeing that fish are starving, they’re getting blockages of microbeads in their guts so that they are starving. We are seeing cellular deformation so it’s actually having an impact at the cellular level.”
Leslie’s concerns are shared by Ecojustice, which today sent a letter to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, asking her to list microbeads under CEPA so they can be assessed whether they are toxic and should be banned.
In the letter, Ecojustice reviews the scientific evidence, saying microplastics are ingested by many organisms, and they can cause blockages and cell death. They point out “microbeads also absorb other organic contaminants from the environment,” and they can be found in high concentrations in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.
In the U.S., two states, Illinois and New Jersey, have passed laws banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. Nine other states are considering similar measures. In Canada, a private member’s bill to ban microbeads has been introduced in Ontario’s legislature. But neither the federal government, or the other provinces, have taken similar action.
The NDP’s Megan Leslie says it’s time for Ottawa to act. “It would be better to have a piece of federal legislation or regulation because otherwise we’re going to end up with this patchwork. Manitoba does this but Nova Scotia doesn’t allow that. It’s easier if we just do it at the federal level.”
Global News contacted the Environment Minister’s office to find out what, if any, action is planned. They have not responded.
-with files from Laura Zilke