Microbeads are the new kid on the pollution block. They are found in a number of face scrubs, body washes and toothpastes – stuff found in most household bathrooms. I’m sure your teen uses an exfoliating acne face wash. More than likely, you use a whitening toothpaste. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic found in these products that do the scrubbing. Microbeads are so small, they aren’t filtered out in either septic systems or municipal sewage systems. And these tiny pieces of plastic are causing ocean pollution and being eaten by fish and those who eat them – us! – alike. It’s very easy to choose a different beauty product and stop microbead pollution at its source. You and your family can make a difference in the ocean’s health starting in your bathroom cabinets.
According to the nonprofit 5 Gyres, just one tube of facial scrub contains more than 300,000 plastic microbeads. Each one of these end up in the ocean as all rivers are connected to it. The Great Lakes especially is riddled with the teeny exfoliants. Just the fact that our oceans are filling with plastic concerns me. Additionally, microbeads and many other plastics are polluting our beaches with litter.
Pollution of any form really loves to bind to the plastics. DDT, an infamously strong insecticide, although no longer allowed to be used in the US and many other countries still exists in our environment and has been found “glommed” to microbeads inside the bodies of fish. Most of poor fish cannot digest plastic – which looks a lot like food to them – and so their bellies fill with pollutants while their internal organs absorb the toxins. And then we eat the fish. Not a pretty picture.
How to Avoid
There’s an app for everything now, even avoiding the microbead! Check out “Beat the Microbead” app here which is a project of an international campaign with the same name working with nonprofits to ban the exfoliants world wide. Look up both products you use and find products that don’t contain these tiny polluters.
Read the labels of your beauty products. If they contain polyethylene or polypropylene (aka plastic), they are part of the problem. It may be best to send them to the landfill with your trash than to use them up and contribute further to a polluted ocean and fishery. You can also send your products to
5 Gyres (at your own expense) who will use it for educational purposes.
Seek out alternative facial scrubbers that contain almonds, walnut shells, cocoa beans or just coarse sugar. Making your own scrub with sugar and other ingredients found in your kitchen cupboards is a great choice too.
Use toothpaste that utilizes baking soda, silica or other natural ingredients for whitening and scrubbing.
How You Can Help
Tell your friends about these little known tiny, plastic balls found in their medicine cabinets and showers. Help them find new products as you have.
Tell your congress representative that you’d like your state to ban the use of microbeads. At the publishing of this article, eight States in the US have already put a ban in place where companies must phase out the beads, both in manufacturing and distributing.