The National Law Forum

The Blog of the The National Law Review

Microbead Mortality re: Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

Federal government bans microbeads.

  • Microbeads are tiny beads of plastic added to cosmetics and personal care products to serve an abrasive or exfoliating function. For years, environmental groups have expressed concerns that microbeads pollute waterways and pose harm to aquatic life because their small size allows them to pass through wastewater treatment systems in significant quantities.  In response to these concerns, several states enacted microbead bans, and many other states have been considering similar legislation.

  • In late December 2015, Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban the manufacturing and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics (including toothpastes) that contain intentionally added plastic microbeads.  The manufacturing ban will take effect on July 1, 2017, while the ban on distribution will take effect on July 1, 2018.  The effective dates are delayed by an additional year for microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics that are also nonprescription drugs.

  • The federal ban is supported by environmental groups and the plastics industry alike, and it puts an end to years of debate and the increasing development of a patchwork of state and local restrictions in this area.

© 2015 Keller and Heckman LLP

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