Legislation Will Protect Nation’s Waterways

WASHINGTON, DC – In a major victory for U.S. waterways and the environment, the Senate today unanimously passed Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.’s (D-NJ-06) Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, sending the legislation to the President for his signature.  Pallone, the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the bill earlier this year with Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-06).  It would prohibit the manufacture and sale of personal care products that contain plastic microbeads.  These small bits of plastic, used as exfoliants in personal care products like face wash, soap, and toothpaste, can slip through water treatment systems after they are washed down the drain.  As a result, these microbeads often end up in local streams, rivers and larger bodies of water.  The bill would ban the manufacturing of personal care products containing plastic microbeads effective July 1, 2017.

“At a time when gaining widespread bipartisan consensus is anything but easy, I am especially glad my bill to protect U.S. waterways is going to the President’s desk,” said Congressman Pallone.  “It is a commonsense solution to this little-known but serious problem of plastic microbeads seeping into waterways and threatening the environment and ultimately our health.  The ban will spur an important transition from plastic microbeads to non-synthetic alternatives in personal care products."

Scientists have found evidence of microbeads in numerous bodies of water in the United States, including increasingly in the Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of freshwater.  In addition to contributing to the buildup of plastic pollution in waterways, microbeads can be mistaken by fish and other organisms as food.  If consumed by fish, the chemicals found in synthetic plastic microbeads can then be passed on to other wildlife and humans.

Earlier this year, New Jersey passed a state law to ban the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads.