Plastic Microbeads are the K-Cups of Skin Care

Plastic Microbeads: Stopping This Invision Pollution in Its Tracks

Your prized anti-aging face wash could be made with plastic microbeads. And much to the dismay of many consumers, this tool for instant exfoliation is really just ground up toxic plastic.

Plastic microbeads are tiny plastic particles, smaller than 2 millimeters, used in toothpaste, face wash, body wash, scrubs, lip gloss, and a number of other personal care products. But these tiny colorful dots present a huge problem in the form of microbead pollution, according to The New York Times.

When the plastic microbeads are washed off they go down your bathroom drain and end up flowing into lakes and streams. And the pollution they create is hugely problematic because the beads are too small to be filtered out by water treatment facilities. And as a result, fish end up ingesting them. In fact, that sushi roll you were noshing on last night may actually contain microbeads. The beads are made of a variety of plastics, but the bottom line is that they’re toxic to both you and the environment.

“Kind of like the Trojan horse effect,” Dave Andrews, a senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group said to The New York Times. “You’re increasing the quantity that’s ending up in the lower organisms, and then they could make their way up the food chain.”

That’s why more and more states are banning them. Thus far, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Colorado, Indiana, California, and Maryland have all banned the microbeads in some form. But according to the non-profit, the Story of Stuff, a major player in the fight to ban the beads, some of the laws don’t go far enough.

According to The Story of Stuff:

Unfortunately, many of these bans on microbeads don’t go far enough to protect our health and our shared waters. The industry that is pushing these plastic-filled products has written a bill that leaves loopholes for the microbeads to be replaced with other kinds of plastics and circulated it around the world.  The Story of Stuff Project is leading a coalition of over 100 groups to get these tiny plastic beads out of commerce.

Plastic that are considered biodegradable actually require facilities in order to breakdown the plastics, which becomes a problem because the microbeads end up flowing down the drain and never making it to any sort of facility.

You can make a difference by avoiding all products that contain microbeads. This is especially true of anti-aging and exfoliating personal care products. Additionally, while some states have already enacted legislation, many states are working on new laws, so it’s worth writing your representative and letting them know you support such laws. As more and more people learn the damage microbead pollution can do, banning these pesky plastics in your state becomes that much more realistic.

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Image of a woman brushing her teeth from Shuttershock