Bill Would Ban Manufacture of Microbead Products

By Amena H. Saiyid

Aug. 21 — Language to ban not only the sale and distribution of microbead-containing facial scrubs and other personal care products, but also the manufacture of such products, is being considered by the top two members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to interviews by Bloomberg BNA.

“Our intent is to seek to ban manufacturing along with sale and distribution,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the committee's ranking member and author of the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (H.R. 1321), told Bloomberg BNA in an interview.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved H.R. 1321 on a voice vote on May 14. The bill as currently written would require the Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale and distribution of personal care products containing synthetic microbeads, starting Jan. 1, 2018. The bill is currently silent on the question of manufacture, but Pallone promised that “we are going to address manufacturing and sale” as the bill makes it way through the full committee.

“Those changes will take place as we move the bill through the committee,” Pallone said.

Plastic microbeads are smaller than 5 millimeters and elude capture by wastewater treatment plants. They can act as sponges for more toxic chemicals and endocrine disruptors, such as mercury and bisphenol A.

Upton Favors Phaseout 

Pallone is not alone in wanting to ban the manufacture of personal care products, which use plastic microbeads as abrasives.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the bill's chief sponsor, also has indicated that he is working on language to phaseout manufacturing and sales of such products that include plastic microbeads, which researchers have found in large quantities in the Great Lakes, committee spokeswoman Noelle Clemente said.

Both Upton and Pallone are treating the microbeads bill as a priority. Pallone said he hopes to see movement on the bill in Congress during the session that starts following Labor Day.

A companion bill (S. 1424) was introduced May 21 by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). That bill also seeks to ban distribution and sale of personal care products containing microbeads.

‘Pragmatic' Approach 

The Personal Care Products Council, which represents about 600 large, medium and small-sized companies that manufacture and distribute the vast majority of cosmetic and personal care products marketed in the country, has endorsed the concept of a federal legislation that establishes “pragmatic” phaseout deadlines for synthetic microbeads that are found not only in personal care products but also in over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs. Johnson & Johnson, also a member of the council, has endorsed that concept.

At a May hearing, John Hurson, the council's executive vice president for government affairs, cautioned the Health Subcommittee that microbeads are a small portion of the microplastics found in oceans and lakes. The microplastics include fragments of clothing fibers, boat paint particles, degrading plastic bags and plastic bottles, as well as microbeads found in personal care products. The council along with Johnson & Johnson are advocating for a phaseout of plastic microbeads with alternatives that can biodegrade in marine and land-based conditions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 (H.R. 1321) is available at