Chemicals, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Microbead Ban Goes into Law

On December 28, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (House of Representatives (H.R.) 1321). This law amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by banning the sale of rinse-off cosmetics that contain intentionally added plastic microbeads beginning January 1, 2018, and by banning the manufacture of these cosmetics beginning July 1, 2017. The bans are delayed by 1 year for cosmetics that are over-the-counter drugs.

Plastic microbeads, commonly made of polyethylene or polypropylene, are synthetic plastic particles that are used as an abrasive in many personal-care products such as face wash, body wash, soaps, shampoos, and toothpaste. Microbeads are too small to be filtered out by most sewer treatment facilities and make their way into waterways. Microbeads can absorb chemicals commonly found in waterways and become large enough that they are mistaken for food by small fish and wildlife.

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