House of Representatives approves bill to ban environmentally damaging microbeads

The United States is poised to ban microbeads, minuscule pieces of plastic found in personal care products like face and body washes, toothpastes, and soap, after studies showed they cause significant harm to the environment. The House of Representatives yesterday approved the Microbead Free Waters Act, which — if approved by the Senate — will start phasing out the production of microbeads on July 1st, 2017.

California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin are among the states that have already enacted legislation to restrict microbeads, passing laws this year that planned to halt production of the tiny plastic particles on January 1st, 2018, and ban the sale of products containing microbeads from 2020. Illinois was the first state to pass such legislation, after research in 2013 showed that America's Great Lakes were contaminated with tiny plastic pieces from personal care products. At the time, scientists said Lake Ontario alone held an estimated 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometer, while more recent research has shown that 8 trillion microbeads flow daily into bodies of water in the United States.

The bill has had backing from both sides of the House, after being co-sponsored by Republican Fred Upton, and Democrat Frank Pallone. "These microbeads are tiny plastic, but make for big-time pollution," Upton said, introducing the legislation. "Most people buying these everyday products are unaware of the damaging effects they are having on the environment," Pallone added. "However, they are being washed down the drain and reaching our waterways, so we must make sure that these soaps and toothpastes don't contain synthetic plastic that will ultimately contaminate our environment."

Image from 5GYRES