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Washington — A U.S. House committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill to phase out the production and sale of cleansing products containing microbeads — tiny bits of plastic collecting in high concentrations in the Great Lakes.

The Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, unanimously approved the Microbead-Free Waters Act, introduced by Upton and top panel Democrat Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey.

The legislation aims to phase out plastic microbeads from personal care products starting July 1, 2017.

Scientists are concerned about the tiny bits of synthetic particles because they’re consumed by fish and other wildlife and may be entering the food chain. Toxic pollutants already in the lakes tend to bind to the plastics, increasing the potential to harm aquatic organisms and those who consume them.

The tiny pieces of plastic are often used as abrasive exfoliants in toothpastes and facial cleansers and end up in waterways when they are rinsed down the drain and passed through the filtration systems at wastewater treatment plants.

“On their own, microbeads are nearly invisible, but once they’ve been flushed down the drain is where the trouble begins,” Upton said. “Microbeads are causing mega-problems, and working together with Ranking Member Pallone and all of our colleagues, we’re going to fix it.”

Pallone noted that most consumers buying products containing microbeads are unaware of their effects on the environment.

“I look forward to continue working with Chairman Upton and our colleagues to advance this bill and put an end to this unnecessary pollution,” Pallone said in a statement.

Scientists have found evidence of microbeads in numerous bodies of water including the Great Lakes.

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736

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