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U.S. Bans Microbeads in Rinse-off Cosmetics

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban the manufacturing and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics (including toothpastes) that contain intentionally added plastic microbeads, became law on December 28, 2015.  The new law imposes a ban on the manufacture of these products effective July 1, 2017, and a ban on distribution beginning on July 1, 2018.  The effective dates are delayed by an additional year for microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics that are also nonprescription drugs. A “plastic microbead” is defined as “any solid plastic particle that is less than five millimeters and is intended to be used to exfoliate or cleanse the human body or any part thereof.” 

The federal ban on microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics includes pre-emption of state laws that are not identical to the federal law. Prior to the federal ban, a number of states—including California, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, and Wisconsin—had imposed various microbead bans (see the article, More States Enact Plastic Microbead Bans; Exception Made for Biodegradable Beads, for more details). When the Senate passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act on December 18, 2015, the Personal Care Products Council issued a statement supporting the bill noting that it created “a planned and pragmatic national phase-out process” and dealt with the “proliferation of conflicting state and local restrictions that create unnecessary disruption and confusion for both consumers and companies.” The Council also pointed out that many companies had already voluntarily committed to phase-out the use of the solid plastic microbeads.