The use of microbeads, or polyethylene beads, in personal care products is an ongoing hot topic for manufacturers, consumers, interest groups and governments. A major milestone in the effort to stop the proliferation of microbeads was reached in December, when the United States passed legislation banning them. What's in the U.S. legislation, and what's happening in other parts of the world concerning these infamous exfoliants?
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Highlights from the infographic:
- Microbeads are synthetic polymer particles of between 1mm and 5mm, most frequently made with polyethylene or polypropylene.
- They are commonly used as exfoliants in cosmetics and personal care products.
- Due to their small size, microbeads are able to pass through water filtration plants, entering and polluting waterways. Concern also surrounds their potential impact on the food chain, since they can be ingested by fish and marine organisms.
- In the U.S. individual states have enacted legislation restricting the use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics, with varying timelines. On Dec. 28, 2015, the Microbeads-Free Waters Act was signed into law, banning rinse-off cosmetics that contain intentionally-added plastic microbeads beginning on January 1, 2018. It also bans the manufacturing of these cosmetics beginning on July 1, 2017. The bans are delayed by one year for cosmetics that are over-the-counter drugs.
- In Europe a recommendation for discontinuance has been issued by Cosmetics Europe.
- Canada announced the intention to ban microbeads in July of 2015.
- The current trend is manufacturers moving toward biodegradable alternatives.
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