Because of how the earth’s sea currents travel, plastic debris collects from the oceans of the world into a great Pacific garbage island. If you know about it, I’m sure you would not willingly toss plastics into waterways. However, you may still be contributing to the problem on a microscopic level.
I recently discovered that microbeads are not only in facial scrubs, which I can easily and happily avoid, but are also found in body washes, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes and many other personal care products; and they are tiny bits of plastic.
When I was a child, I learnt that a very effective way to wash my hands when I was outside playing was simply to rub some dirt on them and then wash it away. Small grains of soil are just as effective in cleaning as microbeads and there is no pollution associated with their use.
We have worked out ways to recycle pieces of plastic the size of a tube of toothpaste but not for the microplastics we squeeze out of it and wash down into our drains.
Once discharged, there are no known methods to effectively remove microplastics or microbeads from the environment. They travel through wastewater treatment plants, because the openings in the filters used are too big to catch them. Consequently, the concentration of microbeads in our waterways is increasing.
The beads, which resemble fish eggs, are eaten by many forms of marine life, including fish, seabirds and whales. Australian and Chinese researchers have demonstrated that chemical pollutants accumulate on the surface of microbeads and can pass into the fish that eat them. As the food chain goes, into us as end feeders. In eating fish, we risk eating any pollution that may be in the fish.
Microbeads easily absorb endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals. Plastics may concentrate such toxins at levels 100,000 to 1 million times higher than the levels found in seawater.
I was alarmed that microbeads were in the toothpaste I had recently bought and went to the internet to find brands which don’t. However, when in the supermarket reaching for a bottle of body wash, the question ballooned, “Might microbeads be in this too?”
I put that purchase on hold and went back to the internet. Thus, the horror story of microbeads grew to how I can avoid buying products with microbeads.
Please check out the website www.beatthemicrobead.org/images/pdf/green-australia.pdf for a list of products which don’t have microbeads.