Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced legislation, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2014, that would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads. These small bits of plastic, used as exfoliants in personal care products like face wash, soap, and toothpaste, can slip through water treatment systems after they are washed down the drain. As a result, these microbeads often end up in local streams, rivers and larger bodies of water. The bill would ban the sale or distribution of cosmetics products containing plastic microbeads effective January 1, 2018.
"These tiny plastic particles that are polluting our environment are found in products specifically designed to be washed down shower drains," said Pallone. "And many people buying these products are unaware of their damaging effects. If we know that these products will eventually reach our waterways, we must make sure that they don't contain synthetic plastic that does not biodegrade and ultimately pollute our waterways. We have a responsibility to put a stop to this unnecessary plastic pollution. By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it's too late."
Scientists have found evidence of microbeads in numerous bodies of water in the United States, including increasingly in the Great Lakes, the world's largest source of freshwater. In addition to contributing to the buildup of plastic pollution in waterways, microbeads can often be mistaken by fish and other organisms as food. If consumed, the chemicals found in synthetic plastic microbeads can then be passed on to other wildlife and humans.
Recently, the State of Illinois passed a law banning the sale of products containing plastic microbeads by the end of 2017, and a number of other states are considering similar bans. Natural alternatives to plastic microbeads already exist in the market. Many companies have already started the process of phasing out plastic in their products.