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Innovation Meets Stagnation

April 16, 2014

When you actually look at how this is playing out, it might be a decent model for industry/government interaction.  Well, all the way to the government trying to put people out of business.

Here’s a fine money line:

“Most people freak out when they find out they are washing their face with plastic,” said Stiv Wilson, associate director of the 5 Gyres Institute in Santa Monica, which studies marine plastic debris and is backing bills to ban microbeads.

Microbeads have been used for a while, since small beads of benign plastic don’t cause a lot of allergic reactions, thus preventing lawsuits.  But the size and volume of the particles is causing potential problems.

Wilson said recent reports by the 5 Gyres Institute found microbeads prevalent everywhere from oceans to the Great Lakes to the Los Angeles River. The plastic particles absorb toxic substances from contaminated runoff and are a danger to marine life that mistake microbeads for food, Wilson said. While research is still in its early stages, Wilson said there are concerns about long-term health risks when people eat larger fish that consume the smaller microbead-eating fish.

From the article, it looks like larger companies have already started to phase out the products given some of the research.  Meanwhile, some legislatures are starting to look at laws that would close the markets to companies that haven’t moved.  Now it’s down to negotiating how to move the industry before the legislatures force it.

But honestly, this is probably a better model than, say, the FDA.  Under that model, nothing can be done other than limited tests for years while the government dithers over what’s safe and not safe.  Then the products go to volume, and volume discovers some problems.  So, you get similar results, except they’re delayed by a decade.  So in the least this model tries to work in real time.

Let’s see how the legislation moves forward.  If it’s pushing legal changes after the industry moves, then we have a winner, at least for progress.

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