The NCSL Blog


By Doug Farquhar

States continue to ban microbeads in personal care products.

A lab sample of microbeads, commonly referred to as microplastics. Micropastics are synthetic debris smaller than 5 millimeters in dimension and are found in some personal care products such as exfoliating facial scrubs and toothpastes. Photo: Detroit Free PressWhen California enacted A 888 (Act No. 594) on Oct. 8, it brought the total number of states with prohibitions to 10. Nine of these bans were enacted this year. Illinois enacted its ban in 2014.

Bills remain pending in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and North Carolina.

Microbeads, tiny particles found in products such as toothpaste, shampoos and facial cleaners, are so small (less than 5 mm in size) that water treatment facilities can’t screen them out. As a result, they end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. Industry is working to find biodegradable alternatives, but they haven’t identified a substitute as effective as the plastic beads. Unilever, L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson all have agreed to stop using microbeads in their products.

The ban has caught on fast. In 2013, no bills were introduced on microbeads. Last year, seven states reviewed legislation on microbeads, but only Illinois enacted a law. In 2015, 47 bills were introduced in 25 states. Nine were signed into law.

Doug Farquhar directs the Environmental Health Program at NCSL.

Email Doug.

Map of microbead legislation


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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.