They sound benign enough, but microbeads are causing quite a stir in the health industry, with cities such as New York wanting to ban them from personal hygiene products. Why are microbeads getting under people’s skin?
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are found in cosmetic and personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste and exfoliators. In 2009, research found that the average consumer will use a product with microbeads in it at least once a day. Just one jar of facial cleanser can contain up to 300,000 microbeads!
These minute pieces of plastic are smaller than one millimetre but they can wreak havoc on health and the environment. They are so tiny that they don’t get filtered and end up in the waterways quickly. Since they’re plastic, they’re able to absorb pollutants that are already in the environment so when they get consumed by marine life these chemicals end up in their systems and can work their way up through the food chain before getting to us. There have shockingly even been cases of microbeads being discovered in people’s gums during a dentist appointment. Microbeads are not biodegradable, so once they enter the water system they don’t disintegrate. Rather, they can last for hundreds of years.
You’re more at risk of being affected by microbeads if you consume seafood, but even if you don’t you can be impacted because these plastic beads are ending up in the water and we are all dependant on it. The toxins in plastic can disrupt hormones in the body and have been linked to a variety of illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Microbeads are not biodegradable, so once they enter the water system they don’t disintegrate. Rather, they can last for hundreds of years.
Ban Those Beads!
Illinois was the first state in the U.S. to ban the manufacturing and selling of personal care products containing microbeads, with both propositions taking full effect by the end of 2018. Other U.S. states, along with many European countries, are also working to eliminate microbeads.
Clean Up Nicely
How do you know if a product contains microbeads? Look for the words ‘exfoliating’, ‘scrub’, as well as ‘polyethylene’, and ‘polypropylene’ which are two types of plastic. When you want to exfoliate your skin, choose organic products that are right in your kitchen to prevent the use of microbeads. These include sugar, coffee grains, and oatmeal, and these DIY scrubs are really easy to make.
Image credit: Mikhail Malyugin / Dollar Photo Club