AUGUSTA – The Maine House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in support of a bill that would ban the sale of soap, toothpaste and other products containing tiny plastic “microbeads.”

Maine is one of roughly two dozen states where lawmakers are considering banning microbeads in personal care products in response to concerns that the small plastic pellets – often measuring a fraction of the size of a grain of sand – are accumulating in the environment.

Microbeads are marketed as exfoliating agents in soaps, shampoos, cosmetics and other products. But there is rising concern among health and environmental organizations that the non-biodegradable plastic beads pass through wastewater treatment filters and pick up potentially toxic contaminants before entering the food chain.

The House voted 145-1 to pass a bill, L.D. 85, that had the support of both the environmental community and the major national industry trade groups representing manufacturers of personal care products. Rep. Ricky Long, R-Sherman, cast the sole dissenting vote.

The legislation would prohibit manufacturers in Maine from using microbeads in products beginning Dec. 31, 2017, and ban stores from accepting products containing microbeads for sale one year later. A ban on over-the-counter drugs containing microbeads would kick in Dec. 31, 2019.

“We have a right to expect that the food we eat and the water we drink will not contain toxic plastics,” bill sponsor Rep. Joan Welsh, a Rockport Democrat who co-chairs the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “This measure is the best way to make sure microbeads will no longer threaten our health and safety.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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