A popular ingredient in beauty products and hand cleaners could be creating a new environmental threat! The potentially dangerous contaminants are known as 'microbeads', and are no bigger than a grain of salt. These tiny beads are common in face and body washes, scrubs and hand cleaners.
Scientists are concerned the beads soak up pesticides and chemicals after they are washed down our drains and by the time the plastic gets downstream towards the ocean they become toxic pills'. Little fish (mainly sediment feeders) ingest them in their normal feeding pattern, in turn are eaten by larger fish and then can be caught and end up on dinner tables.
Microbeads also float on the water's surface, fish mistake them for food. The plastic alone is bad for fish health, but so are the microbes and chemicals that the beads can carry.
Microbeads inadvertently end up in waterways because they are so small and they simply pass through treatment centres or don't even get to go through any treatment processing.
This form of plastic pollution is extremely difficult to remove, once it is in the waterways or oceans we have no means of protecting fish or other wildlife.
Up to 300,000 microbeads can be found in a tube of face scrub! Because they are so cheap and easily accessible manufacturers also use them in toothpastes.
Microbeads are petroleum based plastics, like polyethylene and polypropylene, some can also be polystyrene.
Most people think that when they feel the texture in a product, they are experiencing apricot or walnut shells, they have no idea that what they actually feel is small pieces of plastic, because a lot of packaging stresses the 'natural' side of the ingredients.
Then onus is on us as consumers to make sure we do the right thing by ourselves and our environment. If we don't purchase them, they won't make them!
There are many biodegradable alternatives already in use by responsible manufacturers, including sea salts, ground walnut or almond shells, ground apricot kernels or pumice.
Read the label, do some research on the products you use on your body and in your homes and make conscious decisions, let's remove these environmentally irresponsible ingredients and not support the products that use them.