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Pallone, Upton Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Ban Use of Microbeads in Cosmetics

March 4, 2015
Press Release

Prohibiting Synthetic Microbeads will Reduce Plastic Pollution in U.S. Waterways

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Fred Upton (MI-6), Chairman of the Committee, introduced legislation, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which 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, including the Great Lakes.  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 on the environment.  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 will 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.”

“This common sense, bipartisan legislation is a win-win for consumers and our Great Lakes ecosystem,” said Upton.  “As someone who grew up on Lake Michigan and represents a large chunk of Michigan coastline, I understand firsthand how important it is to maintain the beauty and integrity of our Great Lakes. I will not stand for any actions that put our beloved Great Lakes in jeopardy. I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to reduce this harmful pollutant from entering our waterways, our fish, and ultimately us.”

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 by fish, the chemicals found in synthetic plastic microbeads can then be passed on to other wildlife and humans.