Federal microbead-free bill set for May 1st hearing

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Personal care Hygiene

Federal microbead-free bill set for May 1st hearing
The proposed Microbead-Free Waters Acts aiming to limit the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic and personal care formulations at a Federal level is set to be heard this Friday, May 1st.

Authored by subcommittee on health chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), the full bill will be published with all the details then and can be accessed here​.

According to Upton, the use of microbeads in personal care products has a distinct function that consumers appreciate, but the repercussions for the environment have an ‘unexpected cost’, that is already proving significant to parts of his jurisdiction in the Great Lakes.

The risk to the environment

Upton and his campaigners have underlined the increasing body of evidence that is showing these plastic beads are polluting waterways throughout the US, and in particular The Great Lakes.

On average a personal care product formulated with microbeads contains approximately 300,000 tiny plastic beads, which research by the State University of New York leads to estimated pollution levels that run at approximately 17,000 plastic particles per square kilometer of waterway.

The major issue is that the microbeads soak up existing toxins and then and because of their size, are then easily consumed by fish and other marine life, which in turn can lead to toxicity.

Bill authors say they have government and industry backing

However, the bill authors believe the proposal will help to tackle the problem, and, because they have the backing of both government and industry, there should be no significant hurdle to its adoption.

With respect to industry backing, personal care giants Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Unilever have already given their support and have pledged to stop using microbeads in their formulations.

Likewise, the bill is also gathering increasing support at the State level, with Illinois proving to be the first to band microbeads, while Indiana is also on the verge of implementing a similar ban and both Michigan and California are tabling similar proposals.

National ban on microbeads is the next step

Upton believes that the next logical step is to implement the ban on a national level in order to give the movement more impetus, which is what the new bill proposes.

With this aim, the Microbeads-Free Waters Act of 2015 would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal hygiene products containing microbeads by 2018.

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