Proposed regulations for microbeads in personal care products: chapter 4

4 Potential benefits of regulations

4.1 Environmental and health benefits

Scientific literature indicates that microbeads are readily taken up by a variety of organisms including fish, mussels and several types of zooplankton and have shown adverse short-term and long-term effects in aquatic organisms (Environment Canada, 2015). The concentrations of microplastics are expected to increase linearly in the ecosystem. In order to improve the overall health of the marine environment, action is required to reduce the amount of plastic pollution from personal care products, which are a key source of releases to water.

A regulation banning the manufacture, import, sale or offer for sale of microbead-containing personal care products used to exfoliate or cleanse would be expected to reduce the quantity of microplastics entering the aquatic environment, benefitting marine mammals, fish, invertebrates and fish-eating birds.

A review of scientific literature did not identify studies that indicated concerns for human health related to the presence of microbeads in personal care products.

It is expected that microbeads present in personal care products applied to the skin are not absorbed by the body but rather are rinsed off or leave the body and are ultimately released to the environment (Environment Canada, 2015). Although potential effects to human health through consumption of seafood containing microbeads have been flagged by some members of the public as a concern, the limited information on this source of exposure does not indicate a basis for review of potential risk to human health from exposure to microbeads (Environment Canada, 2015).

4.2 Alignment with other jurisdictions

The government recognizes the importance of regulatory alignment between Canada and the U.S. and of ensuring a level playing field for Canadian and U.S. companies and enterprises. Canada will therefore endeavour to align measures for microbeads in personal care products with those of the U.S. to the extent possible and will work towards an approach that takes both our environment and our economy into account.

4.3 Level playing field

The proposed regulations could help to provide a “level playing field” for manufacturers and importers of microbead-containing personal care products. A regulatory approach provides assurance, for the purposes of business decision making, that all manufacturers and importers must meet the same requirements for the products to be regulated.

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