Bill to ban microbeads in soap advances in House

Bill to ban microbeads in soap advances in House
© Greg Nash

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a environmentally conscious bill Wednesday that aims to keep the small plastic beads found in body washes, soaps and other personal care products out of the nation’s lakes and streams.


The committee approved an amendment to establish a substitute for the Microbeads Free Waters Act of 2015 to ban microbeads from personal care products and set up an aggressive timeline for the phasing out of these products beginning in 2017. The committee then voted favorably to move the substitute bill to the floor for a vote.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), applies to any non-prescription, rinse-off cosmetic product.

While typically not a fan of pre-emption, Pallone said the substitute bill includes a provision to keep states from enacting their own laws to regulate these plastic microbeads because the federal law proposed has a faster timeline for phasing out products than any state law now in place.  

Though these tiny beads, which are less than five millimeters in size, are almost invisible, committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said they are causing “mega-problems.”

“Because they are so small, they escape water filtration systems and end up in our bodies of water,” he said. “They are known to absorb pollutants and are often mistaken as food by fish and wildlife.”

Pallone said he was pleased to see the committee finally taking the steps to address a problem that’s existed for some time and urged his colleagues on the committee to support the legislation.

“Synthetic plastic microbeads have polluted our nation's waters for years and action is long overdue,” he said.

The committee also approved the technical amendment he offered to clarify that toothpaste is considered a rinse-off cosmetic that’s covered under the proposed legislation.

A companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Let America's farmers grow climate solutions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal MORE (D-Mich.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who are concerned about protecting the nation’s Great Lakes.

A report earlier this year by the State University of New York in Fredonia found anywhere from 1,500 to 1.1 million microbeads per square mile in the world's largest source of freshwater.