Nanny-state state of the week: CA lawmaker wants to ban certain facial scrubs


By Eric Boehm |

Holy zits.

For the first of installment in this weekly series, it seems appropriate our attention is focused on California, a state with a well-known and well-deserved reputation for leading the way when it comes to governmental regulations, bans and general you-can’t-do-that-ism.

WATCH HOW YOU WASH: Microbeads could soon be illegal in facial scrubs sold in California.

Just this year, state lawmakers in Sacramento have proposed bans on everything from cigarette filters to plastic bags to killer whales, according to the Fresno Bee.

But one proposed ban stands out from the rest — in the same way that the kid with way too much acne used to stand out in high school.

State Assemblyman Richard Bloom says he wants to protect the Pacific Ocean and California waterways from the scourge of “microbeads,” the small non-biodegradable plastic particles contained in many facial scrubs and other soaps. These microbeads are too small to be captured by sewage and water treatment facilities, so after they get washed down your drain, they end up making their way to rivers and streams.

The obvious solution: ban microbeads from California — personal hygiene and consumer preferences be damned!

Bloom explained his reasoning in a press release this week.

“We have no choice but to eliminate this pollution at the source. Waiting will only compound the problem and the price of cleaning up,” he said.

Bloom said fish can ingest the particles and absorb toxins in their flesh, causing some in the scientific community to also worry about the impact on the fish, crabs and shellfish humans eat.

A similar ban was proposed earlier this year in New York State — maybe Bloom’s proposal is just making sure California keeps up with its fellow nanny-state states — but it has so far not progressed very far in the legislative process.

That bill was inspired by a study of the Great Lakes that found microbeads accounted for as much as 50 percent of the plastic trash in the lakes.

But there is good news here. Rather than relying on government intervention, some cosmetic companies are phasing out the use of microbeads while others are looking for biodegradable alternatives to the zit-zapping, fish-choking particles.

Bloom is envisioning a world without tiny plastic balls in your facial scrub.

“We lived without microbeads before they went into products and we can live without them afterwards,” he told the Fresno Bee.

It’s probably a good thing for him most teenagers with acne can’t vote.

Boehm is a reporter for and can be reached at Follow @EricBoehm87 on Twitter for more.