Obama signs microbead ban into law

Legislation was signed into law on Monday to phase out the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products.

H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, was signed by President Barack Obama on Monday. The legislation was introduced earlier this year by Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) to end the use of plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017. The legislation cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee in November before passing the House on Dec. 7 and the Senate on Dec. 18.

“It’s a banner day for Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes – we now have a bipartisan law on the books to cleanse dirty microbeads from all our nation’s waters,” Upton said. “Microbeads may be tiny plastic, but they are wreaking big time havoc in our waters. We came together, Republicans and Democrats, and got the job done.”

Microbeads are often used as exfoliants in personal care products, including face wash and toothpaste. The beads can slip through water treatment systems after being washed down the drain and often end up in local streams, rivers and larger bodies of water.

Scientists have increasingly found microbeads in the Great Lakes, as well as numerous other bodies of water in the U.S. The beads can be mistaken by fish and other organisms as food and are then passed on to other wildlife and humans when consumed.

“At a time when gaining widespread bipartisan consensus is anything but easy, I am especially glad my bill to cut down on unnecessary pollution and protect our waterways is finally law,” Pallone said. “This is a commonsense solution to the serious problem of harmful plastic microbeads seeping into U.S. waterways and threatening the environment and, ultimately, public health. I am proud to have worked with Chairman Upton to swiftly move this bill through Congress and see this much-needed legislation become law.”

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