Thursday, June 04, 2015

The dangers of microbeads, and why states should ban them

Your Toothpaste May Be Loaded With Tiny Plastic Beads That Never Go Away

By Julia Lurie
Thu May 28, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
Mother Jones

California is the latest state to consider banning products with microbeads, the tiny pieces of plastic, often less than a millimeter wide, that have become a popular addition to cosmetics and personal care products. Usually made of polyethylene, microbeads primarily serve as exfoliants in face washes and body scrubs, but also add color and texture to toothpastes, lip balms, moisturizing creams, and makeup. A single tube of face wash can contain more than 300,000 of the plastic beads, which are cheaper than other common natural exfoliants like apricot seeds, coconut husks, or diatomaceous earth. Here's a primer on which products contain microbeads and why consumers and politicians are concerned about them.

What's the environmental impact of microbeads?

Microbeads are so small that they aren't caught by most water treatment plants, so they wind up in lakes, streams, and oceans. According to a report by New York's attorney general, as many as 19 tons of microbeads could be discharged into the state's waterways each year. Assuming all Americans are dumping microbeads at that rate, 300 tons per year end up in US waterways.

The beads, which can resemble fish eggs, are mistaken for food and ingested by fish and other marine animals. The plastic also acts as a sponge for toxins, soaking up pesticides, phthalates, and heavy metals and carrying them through the food chain. Tuna and swordfish are turning up with microbeads in their stomachs.

(Continued here.)

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