During its special session June 29, the Connecticut legislature passed a number of items as budget implementers. Two of these are of particular importance to our environment and the health of our citizens – a strong law banning plastic microbeads used in cosmetics and personal care products, and enhanced notification prior to a pesticide application on school grounds, along with restrictions on the use of pesticides on municipal playgrounds.

Microbeads, or polyethylene microspheres, are tiny beads of plastic that are used as abrasives in over 100 personal care products such as toothpaste and face scrubs. Sizes range from one millimeter to as small as a blood cell. A single product may contain as many as 350,000 plastic microbeads.

They pass through wastewater treatment plants and into streams and waterways where they endanger fish and wildlife, working their way up the food chain to threaten human health. They absorb toxins such as flame retardants (e.g., PCBs), and bisphenol-A (BPA) from the water, making them even more dangerous. Microbeads have been found in every ocean, bay and estuary in the world. A recent study done in Lake Ontario found as many 1.1 million plastic particles floating around per square kilometer.

The implementer bill phases out plastic microbeads from Dec. 31, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2019. To my mind, this is cause for celebration; Connecticut has passed the strongest law in the U.S. to ban microbeads, and will lead the way to changing the market in a way that will protect our water, our wildlife and our food.

Another highlight for the environment is restrictions on the use of pesticides in municipal playgrounds. The environmental advocates have fought for years to expand the ban on pesticides from elementary schools to include secondary schools and parks. This law does not go that far, but does require 24 hour electronic parental notification of pesticide applications scheduled on school grounds. This is a big step in the right direction.

Both of these came from bills that made their way through the legislative process and died at the very end, just short of a vote, due to unrelated filibusters and political machinations.

I applaud the legislators who championed these bills and who shepherded them through to final passage!

Susan Eastwood is director of communications for Clean Water Action CT.

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