The House Just Voted to Ban Those Tiny Pieces of Plastic in Your Toothpaste

A sample of microbeads collected in Lake Erie5 Gyres Institute

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Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted to phase out microbeads, the little pieces of plastic that act as exfoliants in personal-care products ranging from face wash to toothpaste. The bill, which was introduced last year by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), would ban the use of synthetic microplastics in cosmetics by 2018. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced companion legislation in May.

Environmental advocates have expressed concern for years over the beads, which are so small that they aren’t caught in water treatment plants. There are roughly 300,000 microbeads in a single tube of face wash; by some estimates, Americans dump roughly 300 tons of the beads per year into US waterways. The microplastics, which serve as a sponge for toxins, are frequently confused by fish as food and make their way up the food chain—they’ve turned up in tuna and swordfish.

Several states have enacted microbead bans, starting with Illinois in 2014. California passed the strictest legislation yet in October this year, banning both synthetic and biodegradable plastics. (Many experts argue that there is no such thing as plastic that can biodegrade in ocean conditions.) If it becomes law, the national legislation, which only focuses on synthetic plastics, would supersede these state bans.

Here are a few products with and without the plastic beads. If you’re curious about a product you use, look for polyethylene on the ingredient list.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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