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Another state goes after microbeads

New York's attorney general is asking that state's legislature to ban microbeads, tiny particles of plastic used in many beauty and skin care products, joining a growing number of states taking aim at the ingredient.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's announcement on Thursday boosts the push against microbeads, which environmental groups say are becoming an increasingly significant pollutant. The plastic particles aren't biodegradable and have been found in high levels in numerous waterways. They're believed to accumulate toxic chemicals such as pesticides, making them particularly worrisome.

Microbeads are found in such products as scrubs, soap, shampoo and toothpaste. They're used as an abrasive in place of natural ingredients.

"When plastic microbeads leach into our water, they attract toxins that harm fish and birds and get passed on to humans," U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement. "We need to protect New Yorkers, our water, and our wildlife from dangerous pollutants and damage caused by microbeads."

The senator said she also is pursuing a federal ban on the substance.

Illinois last year became the first state to ban microbeads. New Jersey followed suit. California and Colorado are considering similar bans, and many more states are expected to join.

Pressure from environmental groups and politicians appears to have shifted the momentum significantly, leading many major companies using microbeads to announce they'll end the practice.

Colgate-Palmolive (CL), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), L'Oreal, Procter & Gamble (PG) and Unilever (UL) all have said they'll phase out microbeads.

The microbeads end up in waterways after being rinsed down drains and passing through sewage treatment plants. The plastic bits have been eaten by birds and fish and, often contaminated, pose a potential risk to other parts of the food chain including humans.

To determine if a product you use contains microbeads, look on the ingredient list for polyethylene or polypropylene.

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