On December 28 President Obama signed a bill banning plastic “microbeads” in soaps, lotions, and toothpastes. The pinhead-sized plastic beads are commonly added to cosmetic and hygiene products to make them more effective at scrubbing. However, environmental experts say the beads, once they go down the drain, can go through water filters and accumulate in waterways and affect marine life.

The ban, which goes into effect in July, 2017, was mixed news for Salvona Technologies, a Kuser-Road based nanotech company that until the ban was announced made two products that used the name “microbeads,” but which the company says have little in common with the banned products. (U.S. 1, September 24, 2014.) Salvona specializes in encapsulation technology and supplies the consumer products and pharmaceutical industries with tiny “microspheres” and “nanospheres,” made out of various materials, with the purpose of enhancing exfoliation, moisturization, or delivering vitamins.

“We had actually used ‘microbeads’ to describe several products,” said Salvona technology director Colin Scott. One was a colorful exfoliating bead, and the other was a bead that provided a color change to whatever it was rubbed on. But there was a key difference between the microbeads that were banned and Salvona’s microbeads. “Ours were named microbeads, but they were not composed of plastic,” Scott said. “Our beads are entirely safe and do not have any deleterious environmental effects,” he said. They are made of sugars, starches, and silicates, with a small amount of pigment to add color. Scott said the company believes its spheres dissolve when used, or quickly dissolve if washed down the drain.

Because of this difference, Salvona can continue using its microbeads, along with the many smaller “nanosphere” products that it makes. It will merely rename the products, which will now be called “SalColors.”

Nevertheless, the law poses a headache for Salvona, which must rush to file paperwork to change its products’ names, and have their sales staff spend time explaining the switch. “Even though these beads have no resemblance in anything other than name to the banned microbeads, we’re still having to spend a tremendous amount of time because of regulatory requirements that all documentation be matching in name,” Scott said. This includes government-required documents such as materials safety data sheets.

Scott said several staff members would have to spend a week on the project.

There is a bright side to Salvona in all this, in that a major competitor to its product has been removed from the marketplace.

“As soon as we saw that the law was signed, we started reaching out to our existing customers,” Scott said. “While this is a regulatory headache, we already have an existing viable alternative to the beads that have been banned. It is a potential opportunity because we do have an existing alternative.”

Salvona LLC, 2521 Kuser Road, Hamilton 08691; 609-655-0173; fax, 609-655-9291. Sam Shefer, CEO. www.salvona.com.

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