Did you know that by washing your face, brushing your teeth and scrubbing your body you might be polluting the environment and threatening your health? Tiny particles of plastic have been added to thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the Plastic Soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Microbeads are found throughout the marine environment, from Lake Geneva to the North Pole. Once in the marine environment, they can act as sponges, absorbing pollutants from the surrounding water, to be added to the chemicals that are already present in the plastic. Sea creatures of all sizes eat these microplastics, mistaking them for food. Once ingested, studies have shown that some of the pollutants in the microplastics may be transferred to the creature that ate them. These pollutants and microplastics can then be passed along the marine food chain and increase in concentrations the higher up we get through a process known as bioaccumulation. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is quite possible that we are exposed from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.
Positive action on behalf of manufacturers has meant that more and more of these microbeads are being removed from personal care products and replaced by naturally biodegradable alternatives. It is still a far cry to say that all personal care products are free from plastic microbeads though.
As a consumer here is what you can do to beat the microbeads:
Clean up your bathroom cabinets and refrain from buying products containing microbeads by using the “beat the microbeads” mobile app.