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NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York political leaders on Monday renewed their push to outlaw microbeads, the personal care plastic additives blamed for polluting waterways, and urged a statewide ban even as Congress considers prohibiting them across the nation.
At least seven states, including Illinois, New Jersey and Wisconsin, have banned the beads, found in toothpaste and facial scrubs. Several others, including New York, are considering legislation that would have the same effect.
In a press conference on Monday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, both Democrats, declared their support for a microbead ban.
"These tiny pieces of plastic have already caused significant ecological damage to New York’s waterways, and they will continue to do so until they are removed from the marketplace," Gillibrand said.
In May, Gillibrand introduced a bill for a nationwide ban of products with synthetic plastic microbeads, which are too small to be captured by wastewater treatment plants. Included in the gel or liquid of some personal care products and touted as exfoliant agents, they have been found in large bodies of water, where fish can confuse them for food, the attorney general's office said.
Microbeads were present in 74 percent of water samples taken from 34 municipal and private treatment plants across New York State, according to a report released by Schneiderman in April.
"New Yorkers wash more than 19 tons of microbeads down the drain every year," he said on Monday.
The Personal Care Products Council, the trade association representing the cosmetic and personal care products industry, has previously supported ban initiatives. It did not respond on Monday to requests for comment.
Reporting by Katie Reilly; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Dan Grebler