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UK will phase out microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2017

The UK government has agreed to ban the sale of microbeads in beauty products, The Guardian reports. The tiny plastic beads, usually found in soaps and lotions, pose a threat to marine life once they end up in the water supply. Although some companies have already removed microbeads from their products in the UK, the government will now mandate the beads be phased out entirely by the end of 2017.

Tiny plastic, no-good beads

Scientists have noted that the beads are about the size of fish eggs, which makes them look like food to a lot of marine life. Consumption of the plastic may harm a fish's ability to grow, or cause digestive problems. As The Guardian notes, the European Food and Safety Agency found the beads posed no discernible threat to humans.

The UK government is expected to announce next week which products will be covered by the ban. Microbeads are used in a wide number of products, including makeup, lip balms, and shaving creams. Unilever, which owns brands like Dove and Axe, has already phased the beads out of its products, but Proctor and Gamble has not, according to The Guardian.

The US has already signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which bans the manufacture and sale of microbeads in soaps, toothpastes, and body washes. The law will go into effect in July of 2017. In 2013, researchers found 1.1 million microbeads per square kilometer in Lake Ontario, according to NPR.