Microbeads from cosmetics are clogging fish guts

B. McPherson

The cosmetic industry is taking a quick turn in their product offerings. The recent phenomenon in the beauty world of offering microbeads in everything from tooth paste to body scrubs is being phased out. By 2018 in the USA most states will have banned their use and the cosmetic companies are listening.

Perhaps in the past you have purchased Crest toothpaste with neat little glitter bits in it. It’s supposed to encourage children to brush their teeth, but adults can use it too. I’ve used it. It’s kind of fun. Turns out the glitter bits are small pieces of coloured plastic. They are not poisonous, but polypropylene is not high of children’s meal menus. Many cosmetics contain tiny plastic beads as well. They have been touted as a way to achieve smooth skin. The organization Beat the Microbead has an extensive list of products that contain these tiny pieces of plastic.

Those tiny pieces of plastic make their way down the drains of the cities and from there to the water treatment plants. Like many of our modern constructs, our sewage treatment plants cannot deal with them and they pass through to eventually land in the ocean or the lakes.

Fish and invertebrates are increasingly showing up with microbeads in their guts. Biologists are starting to wonder how these plastic balls are affecting the health of the animals. There is the potential that fish ingesting enough microballs of plastic may plug their digestive system. Poisoning may result if the plastic contains or has absorbed toxic substances.

Rubbing plastic which is basically another form of petroleum, on your body doesn’t sound nearly as glamourous as microbeads. Try to do what you can to educate yourself about this previously unseen form of pollution and eliminate it from your grooming routine. There are many more nature friendly ways to exfoliate and polish. Sugar scrubs, sea salt rubs, jojoba beads, ground apricot pits all offer a plastic free way to maintain smooth skin.


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