Dec 8, 2015

The same week that the U.S. House of Representatives passes a bill to ban microbeads in cosmetic products, the Bay's Regional Monitoring Program releases a fact sheet that describes our recent study on microbeads and other microplastic particles in Bay water and treated wastewater.

The RMP study found that microplastic pollution was widespread in Bay waters. The tiny plastic particles that pollute the Bay include microbeads used as abrasive ingredients in beauty products, fibers shed from clothing made from synthetic fabrics when they are washed, and minute fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic litter. Levels of microplastic pollution appear to be higher than observed within other major urbanized water bodies, such as the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. Microplastic pollution was also detected in treated wastewater discharged to the Bay. These findings were presented at the State of the Estuary Conference, and made headlines in leading newspapers.

The new RMP fact sheet provides detailed findings of our investigation and offers consumer tips for reducing plastic pollution.

Earlier this week, the House passed H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act. If the bill were passed by the Senate and signed into law, it would ban the use of microbeads in rinse-off personal care products beginning in 2017. As currently written, this bill would preempt state bans on microbeads, including California's new, strictest-in-the-nation ban, which Governor Brown signed into law in October. 

Associated Staff: 
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Clean Water Program
Bay Regional Monitoring Program
Contaminants of Emerging Concern