Washington — A bill to completely ban the manufacture or sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads by 2019 is headed to the president's desk after approval from the U.S. House.
The House passed the bill (HR 1321), introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Dec. 7 by voice vote. The bill would apply to any non-prescription, rinse-off cosmetic product, from toothpaste to exfoliators, banning manufacture of products containing the polypropylene pieces starting July 1, 2017, and the sale of products containing microbeads, imported or domestic, as of July 1, 2019. It also would define “microbead” as “any solid plastic particle that is less than 5 millimeters in size.”
Should it become law, the federal bill would preempt existing state laws in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, which call for a slower timeline and sometimes leave loopholes for certain types of microbeads.
Microbeads are so small they easily slip through municipal water treatment systems and into waterways. California-based environmental group 5 Gyres found 600,000 microbeads per square kilometer (0.39 square mile) in Lake Erie water samples in 2013, kicking off the push to end the use of microbeads, billed by cosmetics companies as gentle exfoliators.
The U.S. Senate is poised to give final approval to the ban as early as the week of Dec. 14, which could get the bill to President Barack Obama's desk for a signature before the end of the year.