The United States government might soon ban personal cleansing products that contain microbeads. Being found in soaps, toothpastes and body washes, microbeads are tiny plastic particles that are posing a threat to the environment. Rather than dissolving in the water, the microbeads are entering into the water supply, posing a serious danger to billions of people.
The United States House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would phase out microbeads starting in July of 2017. The bill will soon be presented to the Senate for further review. Additionally, the California State Assembly has already approved a measure to ban the microbeads.
Research has shown that in New York alone, more than 19 tons of microbeads are sent down the drain each year. These beads collect harmful pollutants, and wildlife often mistake the plastic scraps for food.
In a press release, the Wildlife Conservation Society stated, “Microbeads are highly damaging to the natural environment and the wildlife that live there. Because natural alternatives already exist, a ban on their use in personal care products makes perfect sense.”
A study from 2013 discovered that there are as much as 1.7 million of the tiny plastic particles per square kilometer in Lake Erie of Michigan. Many of the microbeads have been known to eventually settle in lakes which later flow out to the ocean. Due to their small size, microbeads do not get filtered out in wastewater treatment plants.
The microbeads pose a particular danger to aquatic wildlife, which cannot distinguish them from food. Once consumed, the microbeads become lodged in the stomachs and intestines of the animals. This causes the creatures to stop eating and eventually die of starvation. Scientists have already presented evidence showing the harmful effects of microbeads.
Many companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble have already promised that they will work to phase out microbeads from their products. Additionally, the International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics created an entire list of products that contain microbeads so that they can be avoided by consumers.