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A Microbeads Ban is Now One Step Closer to Becoming Reality

There are so many other ways to exfoliate, anyway.
You like this, right? Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

You like this, right? Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Though the partisan divide in Washington, D.C., has grown steeper in recent years, there are still some things that most everyone can get behind. Moving forward a ban on microbeads, the tiny scrubbing particles found in face and body cleansers, appears to be one.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives's Energy & Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill that would prevent the use of the solid plastic microbeads in soaps, cleansers and toothpastes, which pushes it to the rest of the House for consideration. The trouble with this particular type of exfoliant is that the particles, which by the Energy & Commerce Committee's definition are less than five millimeters in size, tend to wash down the drain and out to sea or into lakes, contributing to plastic pollution. Marine animals often eat the small beads, mistaking them for fish eggs.

If the bill, called the "Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015," goes through, it will take effect for manufacturers in July 2017. And let's get real from a consumer standpoint: Even though microbeads' rounded edges make them preferable to, say, jagged apricot scrubs, there are about two gajillion exfoliation options on the market right now. (Exaggeration. It's more like one billion.) Between physical and chemical mechanisms for sloughing off dead skin, there's no shortage of alternatives — or ways to market the stuff. That, in addition to the environmental good to be done, might be why the Personal Care Products Council, a D.C.-based trade organization, put out a news release voicing its support for the Energy & Commerce Committee's bill on Wednesday. 

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