Congress Passes Microbeads Ban In Bipartisan Fashion

Here’s a win for real environmental concerns

(Grist) The bill, called the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, was first introduced into the House back in March. It would ban companies from using microbeads — tiny bits of plastic often added to health and beauty products as an exfoliating agent — by July 2017 in order to prevent them from contaminating the oceans and water supply. The House passed the bill earlier this month, and one week later, the Senate passed it, too — in a unanimous vote.

The legislation was passed in the House on unanimous voice vote, as well. Now we’re just waiting for Obama to sign it, which he must do by the end of January 1st, otherwise it would constitute a “pocket veto”. I’m assuming he will sign it.

Why are microbeads bad?

Plastic microbeads are a source of plastic pollution in waterways. Manufacturers add tiny plastic beads to soaps, body washes, face washes and toothpaste, sometimes to increase exfoliation or for aesthetic reasons. But the tiny size of these beads makes them too small to be properly filtered out by municipal water treatment facilities, and the plastic inevitably ends up in rivers, lakes and the oceans.

They are an actual environmental hazard, getting into the food chain, and causing issues

A recent study found that zooplankton, a tiny ocean animal eaten by small predators like krill, shrimp, and fish, ingest microbeads. Ingested plastic could deprive animals of nutrients and get lodged in their stomachs, according to a 2013 study found in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. Moreover, these plastics can absorb polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as PAHs, and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which have been associated with cancer in humans.

There’s a good video over at the Grist link on the subject, well worth the watch. The legislation also bans so-called biodegradable micro-beads,termed bioplastics. This legislation is not bad for business, and will not cause layoffs. Furthermore, the environmental benefits outway the use of microbeads. Many companies are already doing away with their usage or had planned to stop using them.

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