What are Microbeads?

Microbeads are small plastic particles roughly 0.5 to 500 micrometers in diameter. These minuscule pieces of plastic are a small part of the bigger problem – microplastics. Microplastics are taking over the oceans and ending up in our bodies where they can wreak havoc on our health.

They are often used as an abrasive in many personal care products such as face wash, body wash and toothpaste. The good news is that some countries have taken steps to ban microbeads in products.

Microbeads: Bad for you, bad for the Environment

1. Microbeads Attract Toxins

  • Microbeads are tiny but they have a large surface area which accumulate toxic chemicals such as
    • Pesticides
    • Persistent Organic Pollutants (PCBs)
    • DDT
    • Flame Retardants
    • Other industrial chemicals
  • These chemicals are associated with increased cancer risk, fertility problems and other serious health issues.
  • A single plastic microbead can be one million times more toxic than the water around it.
  • In a way microbeads and microplastics are like toxic time bombs.

2 . Microbeads and Microplastics Harm Marine Life

  • Once in the water microbeads bio-accumulate toxins.
  • Marine life such as fish, dolphins, sea birds and turtles end up ingesting these tiny microplastics.
  • Fish and seagulls often mistake microbeads for fish eggs or other foods.
  • Microbeads were found in the stomachs of Great Lakes fish species where they cause blocked digestive systems and nutrient deprivation. (microbeads in the great lakes)

Food Chain At-Risk

  • At the top of the food chain, we eat seafood and end up with these toxins in our bodies.
  • Seafood such as mussels, tuna, oysters, salmon and anchovies accumulate microplastics.
  • A study found one-quarter of all fish sold in California markets had microplastics in their guts. (plastic pollution & animals)

3. Microbeads are Released into the Environment at an Alarming Rate

  • One tube of face wash contains as many as 350,000 microbeads.
  • An estimated 3 trillion microbeads pollute US waterways every year.

Microplastics are everywhere

  • Unfortunately microbeads are too small to be caught by most sewage treatment plants and they end up flowing into the oceans.
  • Microbeads and microplastics are found in almost every beach worldwide, on polar ice caps, even the arctic sea.

4. Its Almost Impossible to Remove Microplastics once they are in the Environment

  • Most microbeads are made from polyethylene, the most popular plastic in the world.
  • Plastic is not biodegradable and lasts forever.
  • They do not dissolve in acetone or water.
  • Due to their small size, they are just about impossible to remove from the environment once they get there.
  • Testing of seafood reveals that toxic microbeads are indeed present in the majority of samples.

5. Microbeads are not Necessary

  • Alternatives do exist. These include things such as apricot shells and cocoa beans.
  • Companies use microbeads because they are cheaper.
  • Crest has admitted that microbeads in their toothpaste are purely for decorative purposes.

6. Dentists are Alarmed by the Effects of Microbeads in Toothpaste

  • Dentists around the country are finding small blue microbeads from toothpaste embedded in the gum line.
  • The problem is that the microbeads attract bacteria in the gums leading to gingivitis and over time moving to the teeth bones causing periodontal disease.
  • Oral health and your gums is not something to take lightly.

Action Steps

Microbeads pollute our local waters as well as the ocean.  These small plastic particles concentrate toxins which cause harm to marine life and ultimately humans.  Since the Microbead-Free Waters Act gives companies until January 2017 to reformulate their products, we can take action while we wait:

  1. Boycott brands that use micro-plastics
  2. Read the labels before buying your favorite products.
  3. Avoid anything with the ingredients polyethylene and polypropylene.

Sources

5Gyres.org
President Obama Signs Ban on Polluting Plastic Microbeads in Beauty Products
Microbeads – Dr Mercola

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