The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that would prohibit the use of microbeads in personal care products such as soaps, body washes and toothpastes, The Guardian reported.
The bill, called the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, will begin the phase-out of plastic microbeads in personal care products starting July 1, 2017. The bill is now in the senate for approval.
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic measuring no bigger than a pinhead. They are commonly used as abrasives in personal care products. They may seem too small to pose a threat to the environment, but a study published in September revealed that 8 trillion microbeads are released into U.S. waterways every day and end up in large bodies of water.
Plastic microbeads are too small to be caught by waste filtering systems. When they wind up in rivers and lakes, aquatic wildlife feed on them. They get stuck in the gut of these animals and eventually cause their death.
Researchers from the State University of New York reported in a 2013 study that Lake Erie, part of the Great Lakes, has an estimated 1.7 million microbeads per square kilometer.
"The Great Lakes have survived many a foe -- severe pollution, oil spills, discharge from refineries, zebra mussels, and attempts to steal our water, just to name a few," bill co-sponsor Congressman Fred Upton said, according to The Guardian. "We will fight any activity that puts our beloved Great Lakes in jeopardy."
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) lauded the passing of the bill in congress.
"I thank Congressmen Pallone and Upton for continuing to champion healthy waters through their successful support of the Microbead-Free Waters Act through the legislative process," John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, said in a statement. "Microbeads are highly damaging to the natural environment and the wildlife that live there. Because natural alternatives already exist, a ban on their use in personal care products makes perfect sense."