Partisan Politics Fly Out The Window For Christmas, Congress Unanimously Passes Microbead-Free Waters Act With Almost No Debate

Microbead-Free Waters Act passed Congress just before Christmas recession. The act passed with almost no debate, as both Republicans and Democrats agreed that plastic microbeads were posing issues in waterways across America. It seems that everyone was in agreement from the House to Congress, as the bill was passed by Congress without changing any of the original language noted in the original House version of the bill. Interestingly, even the cosmetic industry was on board with the act, and have promised to remove all plastic microbeads from products by 2017.

The New York Times reports that partisan politics were laid to the side for the holiday season as both Democrats and Republicans passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act just before breaking for Christmas. Congress passed the act with very little debate, and passed the bill in the language presented in the original House bill. The bill was presented as concerns were raised over microbeads providing a transport system for toxic chemicals in U.S. waterways. The microbeads enter U.S. waters at a rate of 11 billion per day, as microbeads from beauty products such as toothpaste and facial scrub do not break down. The microbeads make their way into the water supply as water treatment plants are unable to breakdown the plastic pellets.

Though the plastic beads are not toxic on their own, toxic chemicals stick to the beads after they enter and travel through the waterways. With 11 billion of the tiny beads entering the water system each day, the beads quickly begin picking up and transporting chemicals. The problem was brought to the attention of the House and Congress by Dr. Sherri A. Mason, an environmental chemist at the State University of New York in Fredonia. Mason studied microbeads in the Great Lakes helped and brought the findings to the attention of legislators. The research noted that though microbeads do not pose a toxic hazard on their own, they provide a place for toxic chemicals to attach and be transported through the water. Marine life then eats the now toxin-covered beads, and the toxins are passed through the food chain. Ultimately, humans can ingest these toxins after eating seafood contaminated by the toxic-laden beads. Therefore, Representative Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, sponsored the bill which would ban the use of plastic microbeads in the cosmetic industry by July of 2017.

Pallone Jr. noted that he was surprised by the overall positive response and the lack of partisan politics regarding the issue. It was noted that the Senate passed the bill after almost no opposition and that very little debate took place surrounding the proposed ban on the plastic microbeads. Furthermore, the original House bill was passed without any change to the language, which is highly unusual. Pallone notes that the bill is proof that Democrats and Republicans can work together for positive change, and that partisan politics don’t always get in the way.


The Microbead-Free Waters Act was passed unanimously in the Senate, and even the cosmetic industry supported the initiative, noting that many of the top companies had already agreed to phase out microbead use in the coming years. Under the new law, cosmetic companies must stop using plastic microbeads in their products by July, 2017.

Though environmentalists are pleased with the new bill, many note that the issue of plastic on our waterways is far from over. What do you think about Democrats and Republicans coming together before the Christmas recess to pass the Microbead-Free Waters Act?

[Image via Flickr as Plastic Pellets – “Nurdles”]