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By Eloise Evans on 13/12/2016
You wouldn’t think something so tiny could make such a huge impact on the world – and not in a good way! Microbeads are everywhere nowadays – in facial scrubs, body wash and even toothpaste. Although they may seem harmless, these tiny pieces of plastic are just that, plastic.
As you wash your face, brush your teeth or scrub your feet with these microbeads, you will be washing more than you think down the drain. According to the UK parliament’s environmental audit committee, a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles being washed down the drain.
The problem with microbeads is that they are not necessary for cosmetic products. They have some incredible uses for medical reasons, but they are just not good to be washing down the drain. There are lots of natural substitutes for cosmetic microbeads like apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice to name a few. When plastic microbeads are used in things like face wash and toothpaste, it’s not because they work better, but because they are cheaper – there is no reason to use these in products that will be washed down our drains.
These microbeads won’t clog your drain – they’re simply too small. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t do any damage. Once these pieces of plastic pass through our drains, they get washed into the sea where they then soak up all the toxins in the water. This means that they end up being a million times more toxic than the water around them.
You might think that, although these are incredibly toxic, at least they’re in the sea, right? Wrong! Once they are out there, fish might then eat them. The toxins that were inside the microbeads can then transfer into the fish tissue. Once these fish are caught, they can then be served to you and you will be consuming all of those toxins absorbed by the microbeads.
This is the harsh truth about microbeads used in cosmetic products. Microbeads used to be something that companies would boast about having in their products, but now they hide them in the ingredients so it’s almost impossible to know if you are buying something with microbeads in it. You have to know what to look for, so if your face wash, anti-aging cream, or toothpaste contains either polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate or polymethyl methacrylate, then it contains plastic!
However, there is movement to stop the unnecessary use of microbeads. In 2015, the United States enacted federal legislation to ban microbeads and plan to completely eradicate microbeads in unnecessary products by the end of 2017. We here in the United Kingdom, along with Canada and Australia are also considering a complete ban of microbeads.
These are huge steps forward, but until they are banned, you could make a difference to help clean up our water and simply be mindful of what you buy. Avoid plastics and help the environment!