A bill to clean up the environment and keep toxins out of the food chain has sailed through the U.S. Congress with virtually no debate.
The Microbead-Free Waters Act requires health and beauty companies to stop using the tiny, plastic abrasives in products by 2017.
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Microbeads, made from ground plastic pellets like those above, are used in products ranging from facial scrubs to toothpaste. They don’t break down in water treatment plants and about 11 billion of them end up in American waterways every day.
They’re not toxic, but toxic chemicals sticking to the microbeads are eaten by marine life. The contamination is then passed up the food chain — even to humans who eat seafood.
The beads are also a part of the growing problem of plastic pollution floating in the world’s oceans.
Congress passed the bill just before it recessed for Christmas. The Senate didn’t even change any of the language from the original House version of the bill. Even the cosmetic industry supported it in the end. Thirteen companies had already agreed last year to stop using them.
Illinois and California have passed state bans and several cities and counties were planning their own laws against microbeads, leading the industry to favor a single, national regulation rather than dozens of confusing local and state laws.