As Tide Turns on Microbeads, Personal Care Products Council Adapts

With concerns on the rise about the environmental impacts of microbeads—tiny plastic specks commonly used as exfoliating tools in personal care products—the association that represents the industry is open to a federal ban on the materials, though it's asking for changes to a new House bill.

It’s not just a problem with the toothpaste anymore.

In recent weeks, Congress has been putting a sharp focus on the usage of exfoliating microbeads in personal care products, which are believed to have a destructive effect on the country’s rivers and lakes. A new bill being proposed in the House by the two top officials in the Energy and Commerce Committee could be the final curtain call for the tiny specks of plastic.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 [PDF] would update federal code to ban synthetic microbeads under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act starting in 2018.

“These things may be called microbeads, but they’re a mega-problem for our Great Lakes,” Republican committee chair Rep. Fred Upton, who hails from Michigan, said of the bill in comments to National Journal.

The microbead issue, which came to a head last year after Crest removed the plastic materials from its toothpaste, has also exploded at the state level, with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing a law banning the materials from sale just last month. A number of other states, including Colorado and Oregon, are also considering such bans.

The Personal Care Products Council, which represents the makers of health and beauty products, is largely angling in favor of the bill. However, the National Journal notes that the council disputes its products are the direct cause of the microbeads showing up in the Great Lakes, and because of this,  is asking for some changes to the bill.

“The findings cannot accurately conclude that personal care products are the main source. To do so is irresponsible and incorrect,” the council said in a statement to the publication.

Nonetheless, the association pledged to adapt its strategy “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The science is not robust on where these plastic microbeads are coming from, but clearly this is one possible place,” said the group’s executive vice president of government relations, John Hurson, in comments to publication.

Beauty Under the Microscope

Microbeads aren’t the only issue that’s dogging the council in Congress at the moment: Last month, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bill called the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which would further regulate the usage of chemicals in personal care materials, including require more testing of chemicals that commonly appear in them.

In a statement to ABC News, the council expressed support for the bill, which would usurp a state-based patchwork.

“While we believe our products are the safest category that FDA regulates, we also believe well-crafted, science-based reforms will enhance industry’s ability to innovate and further strengthen consumer confidence in the products they trust and use every day,” the council stated.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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