Written by Maddie Caruso, ESLLC 2015-2016
Microbeads, which are small plastic beads that are put into toothpastes and face scrubs for exfoliation, seem to be causing a large environmental issue. These small exfoliating beads are making their way into the water systems of the United States. This is because, unlike other water contaminants, microbeads are buoyant, and often are not completely taken out in the settling tanks of water filtration plants. These small pieces of plastic are then put into lakes, rivers and oceans around the country where they absorb toxins present in those environments.
Because of their small size, these beads are often consumed by small fish and other aquatic life (along with all of the toxins they carry) when they are flushed into the water systems. This causes many potential health down the food chain. The toxins in the microbeads are transferred to the fish, and anything that eats said fish, including humans. Washing your face with these beads could contribute to a toxic environment and to a toxic meal.
These exfoliators are so prevalent in cosmetics, that 8 trillion microbeads are washed into waterways on a daily basis (which is a small fraction of all of the beads that go into treatment plants). This environmental issue does have an easy fix. Stop manufacturing products with microbeads! Many companies are beginning to phase out these harmful plastics. Certain states are also beginning to pass legislation prohibiting the production and sale of products with these beads. President Obama has even signed a bill that will prohibit microbeads in products in order to protect the United States waterways.
Lucky there are many natural alternatives for exfoliation! I will be buying several more loofahs and natural scrubs to lessen my part in any environmental destruction.