Cosmetics containing microbeads will soon be breaking the law

President signs legislation to reduce microbead pollution in the Great Lakes and beyond.

The U.S. House and Senate have passed H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, and it was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 28, 2015. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The U.S. House and Senate have passed H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, and it was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 28, 2015. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

In 2014, Illinois was the first state in the nation to ban the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads. Now, both the U.S. House and Senate have passed H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, and it was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 28, 2015.

What’s all the fuss over little plastic beads?  Previous Michigan State University Extension articles have described the negative environmental and economic impacts of marine debris – including microplastics of all kinds, including microfibers and microbeads – that make their way into our waterways.

See the following articles for more information on marine debris and all forms of microplastics:

Also, visit MSU Extension’s Lakes, Streams, and Watersheds page for more information on protecting Michigan’s water resources.

H.R. 1321 was introduced on March 4, 2015, by Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (R), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D) of New Jersey. It was passed by the House on December 7. This bipartisan legislation had 37 cosponsors, including Michigan representatives Daniel Kildee, Candice Miller, Dave Trott and Brenda Lawrence. Representatives from other Great Lakes states, including Illinois, New York and Minnesota, were cosponsors as well.

The Senate unanimously approved H.R. 1321 on December 18, and it was forwarded to President Obama for his signature. In a statement given on the same day President Obama signed the legislation into law, Upton said, “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.”

This new legislation prohibits “the manufacture or the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of a rinse-off cosmetic that contains intentionally-added plastic microbeads.”  Toothpastes are considered rinse-off cosmetics for the purposes of this law. Microbeads, defined in the legislation as “any solid plastic particle that is less than five millimeters in size and is intended to be used to exfoliate or cleanse the human body or any part thereof” will be phased out.

Prohibition of manufacturing of the targeted cosmetics will take effect July 1, 2017, with “introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce” to end by July 1, 2018. If any of the cosmetics are nonprescription drugs, these effective dates are delayed one year, to July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019, respectively.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Related Articles