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The federal government will go ahead with a ban of microbeads in personal hygiene products.

We wrote last summer about both the then-Conservative government’s announced intention to institute a ban as well as the problems to Canadian waterways posed by the presence of microbeads in personal care products such as face wash, toothpaste, and soap.

The Federal government  has now published a consultation document outlining its proposed approach to banning microbeads in personal care products and inviting interested stakeholders to comment (by March 10, 2016) on the proposed regulation.

Microbeads were initially proposed for addition to Schedule 1 (the list of designated Toxic Substances) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”). Listing a substance under Schedule 1 enables Cabinet, upon recommendation from Environment and Climate Change Canada, to create regulations governing, among other things, its use and availability under section 93 of CEPA.

The proposed regulation would introduce a phased-in ban of the manufacture, import, and sale of microbeads in non-prescription personal care products, beginning at the end of December 2017.

Instituting a ban has arguably become an easier task in the intervening months since the federal government initially announced it was taking steps towards a ban. That’s because earlier this year, US President Barack Obama signed a bill that will ban the use of microbeads in the US by 2019. This follows on the heels of several state bans.

Notably, the US ban will cover microbeads 5mm and smaller in size, whereas the proposed Canadian regulation will affect only those 2 mm and smaller (Environment Canada had originally indicated its intention to regulate microbeads up to 5mm in size).

Neither the Canadian nor the American bans target microplastics– a larger class of plastic particle with equally, if not more, pernicious effects upon waterways and marine organisms.

Some producers have already undertaken steps to eliminate the use of microbeads in their products, though these measures are non-binding and have tended to have long horizons for implementation.

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