Microbeads are tiny synthetic polymers commonly used as exfoliants in cleansers , toothpaste, and lotions. They are not dangerous in topical use but once washed down the drain, these beads are to often too small to be caught by municipal water treatment filters. Potentially, this allows them to sink to the bottom of our lakes, rivers, and oceans get consumed by fish, and begin working back up the food chain to us.
There appears to be no solid proof that micro beads pose a threat to our health but synthetic chemical compounds that can collect on on the beads have been suggested to be linked to cancer and birth defects.
Microbeads: The Story of Stuff:
There is a larger microplastic issue of which micro beads are a part of. Microplastics in the Great Lakes and the Toronto area are being studied. Samples with 750 mililitres of water were taken and sent to the lab. Every sample taken contained plastic fibers and beads. Some samples had more than 100 pieces of visible microplastics, while further study will determine the amount of unseen particles.
Governments across North America are concerned about the impact of micro plastics in our water. The Canadian House of Commons approved a proposal in July 2015 to put micro beads on the list of toxic substances under the Environmental Protection Act. Illinois, New Jersey, and California have passed legislation banning the production and sale of microbeads by 2018 and 2019.
Plastic microbeads pile up into problems for the Great Lakes:
Looks like we are heading in the right direction on this…too bad the downside of these products was not picked up earlier.