New act would phase out the tiny pieces of plastic found in soap, toothpaste and body washes, which pollute waters and spread throughout the food chain.
The US is set to ban personal care products that contain microbeads after the House of Representatives approved a bill that would phase out the environmentally-harmful items.
The bill, which had been backed by a bipartisan committee, will now go to the Senate for approval.
The Microbead Free Waters Act would start the phase-out of the tiny pieces of plastic found in soap, toothpaste and body washes beginning 1 July 2017. Microbeads can flow into rivers, lakes and streams where, they can be mistaken for food by fish. This can lead to the spread of pollutants throughout the food chain, including to humans.
Microbeads are typically smaller than a pinhead but are causing significant problems in the Great Lakes. Research conducted in 2013 by the State University of New York found that the lakes were riddled with microbeads, with Lake Ontario containing an estimated 1.1m plastic particles per square kilometer.
Ohio, which has most of the Lake Erie shoreline, is considering microbead legislation, as is Michigan. Illinois became the first state to ban the sale of such products in 2014, with California recently finalising a bill to phase out microbeads by 2020.
Research by Oregon State University found that a stunning 8tn microbeads a day were being emitted into bodies of water in the US. This plastic adds to the vast quantity floating throughout the world’s oceans, with a recent study finding that up to 90% of the planet’s seabirds have pieces of plastic in their guts.
“These microbeads are tiny plastic, but make for big-time pollution,” said Republican Fred Upton, a co-sponsor of the bill.
“The Great Lakes have survived many a foe – severe pollution, oil spills, discharge from refineries, zebra mussels, and attempts to steal our water, just to name a few,” Upton said. “We will fight any activity that puts our beloved Great Lakes in jeopardy.””