Why You Might Not Have Tiny Beads in Your Soap Anymore

December 8th 2015

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Monday called the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which would ban microbeads from soaps, body washes and other cosmetic products.

Microbeads are extremely small bits of plastic found in toothpaste, body washes and other products, and they're supposed to exfoliate skin.

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The bill was introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-NJ, who has been concerned these microbeads are ending up in lakes and rivers and are polluting the environment.

"We have a responsibility to put a stop to this unnecessary plastic pollution," Pallone said in a statement when he introduced the bill in March. "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.”

Illinois was the first state to ban microbeads last year, largely because it borders a great lake. Studies have shown microbeads are found in the great lakes at "alarmingly high levels," as Pallone puts it. California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland and New Jersey have also banned them. The bill that just passed would get rid of microbeads in cosmetics across the nation starting in 2017.

Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

"Microbeads seem like a nice way to get extra ‘scrub' in your soap, but they pose a very real danger to our Great Lakes," Sen. Stabenow said in May. "Researchers are finding these bits of plastic building up in our lakes, rivers and streams. When we see these kinds of things are threatening our Great Lakes and potentially threatening fish populations, we need to take swift action."

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