Microbeads, small pellets of plastic, extensively used in personal care products such as shampoo, baby lotion and face cream and considered toxic to marine life, are being banned internationally, but key arms of the Indian government have side-stepped the issue either passing the buck or saying that no studies have been conducted to ascertain the harm posed to environment or its potential toxicity.
On a petition filed by Ashwani Kumar, an environment lawyer, requesting a ban on microbeads, also called microplastics, a National Green Tribunal Bench asked the Ministries of Health, Environment and Water Resources file their response. The crux of Mr. Kumar’s petition is that these plastics are too small to be caught by sewage treatment and water filtration techniques and they pass unchecked into rivers and seas and contaminated them. They take centuries to degrade and worse, are sometimes eaten by fish and other aquatic animals and could even make their way into human diets.
One of the promises of the Water Resources Ministry, as part of the National Clean Ganga Mission, is to revive aquatic life in the polluted Ganga.
The Environment Ministry’s response said the Central Drug Standards Control Organisation — a Health Ministry body — was responsible for ensuring what chemicals were permissible in the manufacture of cosmetics.
Banned in U.S.: The United States has promulgated a ban, which will come into effect next July, on cosmetic products containing microbeads. Over 299 million tonnes of plastic was produced worldwide in 2013 some of which made its way to oceans, costing approximately $13 billion per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems, says a June 2015 report by the United Nations Environmental Programme that investigated the possible harm by microbeads/microplastics.