President Obama signed into law this week the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (H.R. 1321), which amends the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act to prohibit the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads. The small plastic particles, often found in face washes, soaps and toothpaste, have become a hot topic for lawmakers and environmentalists in recent years, with many states taking action to ban the microbeads. The Federal law preempts state laws regarding microbead bans.
While the microbeads have not been found to present any risk to users of the cosmetics, some reports have suggested that when washed down the drain, they find their way into public waterways and can form bonds with pollutants. The law defines microbeads as “any solid plastic particle less than five millimeters in size.” Under the new Federal law, a ban on manufacturing products with the beads would begin on July 1, 2017, followed by product-specific distribution bans in 2018 and 2019. Many manufacturers had already announced the phase out of microbeads in their products.