Obama Bans Plastic Microbeads, Aiming to Protect Nation’s Waterways

You may be doing a bit more web browsing to find alternative ways to exfoliate your skin since President Obama has signed a bill banning plastic microbeads in products. On December 28, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. The act bans the use of plastic microbeads in products, according to a White House press release.

The new bill aims at protecting the waterways of America from the damaging effects of plastic microbeads. A study published in Environmental Science & Technology (2015) estimates that, “808 trillion microbeads may be washed down household drains in the United States every day.” The study suggests that eight trillion of the 808 trillion microbeads will find their way into U.S. waterways. 

The bill banning microbeads is an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and defines plastic microbeads 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.” Due to their small size, the microbeads often pass through water waste filtration systems and settle in sludge found in various aquatic habitats.

bridgeThis may be a hindrance for many cosmetic manufacturers, which could result in profit losses for these companies. However, the current state of environmental pollution needs to be addressed quickly. The eight trillion microbeads that find their way into the nation’s precious and fragile waterways are often ingested by fish and birds that inhabit those regions. And these plastic microbeads can last decades once entering the rivers, lakes and oceans of the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Plastic microbeads are made of synthetic polymers like “polyethylene, polylactic acid (PLA), polypropylene, polystyrene, or polyethylene terephthalate,” according to the 2015 study. These synthetic chemicals can cause serious health issues for wildlife, including inflammation, cellular necrosis, and tissue laceration, according to researchers. These animals are often caught and consumed by people later, possibly exposing them to the synthetic chemicals as well.

Do you support the ban on plastic microbeads, and what other products would you like to see investigated?  

—Stephen Seifert

Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.


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