UPDATE: A bill that would completely ban the manufacturing or sale of bath products and cosmetics containing microbeads by 2019 was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate on Friday and is now headed to President Obama's desk.
The House voted earlier this month to ban the plastic microbeads from bath products, advancing efforts to protect the nation's waterways from plastic pollution. The legislation applies to any non-prescription rinse-off cosmetics, including toothpaste, according to The Hill.
"Simply put, microbeads are causing mega-problems," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton. "Once they’re flushed down the drain, that’s when the problem really begins."
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee has passed a substitute bill — the Microbeads Free Waters Act of 2015 — to ban microbeads from any personal care products or non-prescription cosmetic products, setting up a timeline to phase them out come 2017.
- Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. said the bill includes a provision to prevent states from making their own regulations on microbeads because "the federal law proposed has a faster timeline for phasing out products than any state law now in place," according to The Hill.
- Officials hope that the proposed law will keep these tiny, almost invisible beads out of the nation's lakes and streams.
"Synthetic plastic microbeads have polluted our nation's waters for years and action is long overdue," said Rep. Pallone who introduced the bill.
The action is so long overdue that states have taken it upon themselves to ban these products which are polluting bodies of water, putting fish and other wildlife at harm. In September the California State Assembly approved to ban the personal care products that contain these beads. Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, and Maryland have also enacted similar legislation.
Now that the proposed bill prevents these states from advancing their legislation, it is crucial that a federal law is passed. More than 3,000 personal care products now contain polyethylene (microbeads), according to an online database by the Environmental Working Group.
"I am confident that ... future generations will look back and wonder why these tiny pieces of plastic were ever even considered for use in products that are designed to be washed down the drain," said Californians Against Waste Executive Director Mark Murray in a press release.