The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, a crucial piece of environmental legislation that will phase out and eventually ban microbeads from soaps and cosmetics, has flown surprisingly easily through the Republican-controlled Congress over the past few weeks.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, passed unanimously through the Senate today and is now awaiting the president’s signature. Microbeads, which are used as exfoliants in personal care products like soap, face wash, and toothpaste, easily pass through most filtration systems and end up messing with the food chain in fairly drastic ways. According to a 2014 article from NPR:

“They are about the same size as fish eggs, which means that, essentially, they look like food. To any organism that lives in the water, they are food,” [Sherri] Mason [an associate professor of chemistry at the State University of New York, Fredonia] says. “So our concern is that, essentially, they are making their way into the food web.”

And if fish eat microbeads, which can soak up toxins like a sponge, scientists suggest that those chemicals could be passed on to humans and wildlife.

The bill has not been met with much opposition from the personal care products and cosmetics industries; many companies have already begun to phase microbeads out of their products. Lezlee Westine, president and chief executive officer of the Personal Care Products Council, told WWD that the industry is ready to shift:

“We applaud today’s U.S. Senate passage of the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which creates a planned and pragmatic national phase-out process in the interest of both consumers and the personal-care products and cosmetics industry.”

If all environmental legislation encountered this little pushback, we’d be set.


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Image via screenshot/CBS News.