Plastic Microbeads Continue to Damage the Ocean
9 Billion Microbeads of plastic enter the ocean everyday. These Microbeads made up of polystyrene or polyethylene terephthalate are found in cosmetics, toothpaste, cleaning products, and other consumer products. Usually 1-5mm in size, they pollute the ocean and put aquatic life at risk of harm including death.
“The problems arise when microbeads are flushed down the drain, as they’re designed to be, and end up in aquatic habitats. Because they only measure up to one millimeter in size, wastewater treatment plants aren’t able to screen them.” – Catheleen Chen, Staff, http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2015/0920/Is-your-face-wash-damaging-the-oceans
An article from Oregon state university explains how much pollution is happening:
“the researchers estimated that 8 trillion microbeads per day are being emitted into aquatic habitats in the United States – enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts a day. But the other 99 percent of the microbeads – another 800 trillion – end up in sludge from sewage plants, which is often spread over areas of land.”
Microbeads are toxic. Aquatic animals eat them and when one aquatic animal eats another the toxic beads spread. Seafood consumption could cause health problems for humans as well. High mercury levels in fish, from pollution, is already causing problems for human consumption, and microbeads add to the problem.
Microbeads in soap are used exfoliate the skin and provide abrasive texture as a cleaner for household maintenance. However, alternative solutions do exist and probably should be used instead.
According to a the research paper in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal natural products like pumice, oatmeal, or walnut husks can exfoliate too. –http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/acs.est.5b03909
Awareness is growing about the problem, and action has been taken. Rachel Abrams of NY Times explains,
“Six states — Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana and Maryland — have enacted legislation to restrict the use of microbeads, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while bills are pending in others, including Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon.” –http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/business/energy-environment/california-takes-step-to-ban-microbeads-used-in-soaps-and-creams.html?_r=0
Fortunately, many companies like Johnson & Johnson and L’Oréal said they will phase out plastic microbeads from their products. I think if people care about this issue, they should only buy and use products that are free of the microbeads like oatmeal exfoliating face cleansers.