Bathroom products vs. clean water: why Illinois banned microbeads

AP photo courtesy 5gyres

Our nation’s waterways have a new threat, and it might be lurking on your bathroom counter.

Plastic microbeads–found in many health and beauty products including face washes and toothpaste–are turning up in water systems everywhere, from Los Angeles rivers, to Arctic seas, to Midwest lakes, to coastal bays. That’s bad news for aquatic life, which mistake the beads for eggs and other food.

Here’s the latest news  on what scientists are learning about these tiny balls o’ petrochemicals, and who’s taming their spread.

With Concern For Environment, Illinois Bans Microbeads. By Cheryl Corley for NPR.

photo by Flickr user gentlemanrook

“Scientists say after fish and other organisms eat the tiny bits of plastic — usually listed as polyethylene or polypropylene on labels — toxins could be passed on to humans and wildlife.

“The Illinois law bans the manufacture of microbeads in consumer products by the end of 2017. Some companies, like Johnson & Johnson, are already phasing them out in facial cleansers and other products and are testing alternatives.”

‘Microplastics’ imperil marine life in Tampa Bay, worldwide. By Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Eckerd crew has consistently found about 150 particles of microplastics per gallon sampled.

…Some of the microplastics could be coming from the sewage plants that still dump treated waste into the bay.

[Plants] have made great strides in preventing nitrogen from flowing into the bay from their waste stream, Greening said, but nobody has given any thought to screening out microplastics. Hastings said doing so “would be very, very difficult and expensive.”

Researchers finding plastic in water samples from Great Lakes. By Dana Massing for the Erie Times-News.

“If it’s in the water, ultimately it’s in us,” said Mason, an associate professor of chemistry at the State University of New York at Fredonia. “We need to stop putting these chemicals into the water.”

Think you might be part of the problem? There’s an app for that.

Download Plastic Soup Foundation’s Beat the Microbead App. Scan a barcode before you purchase a cosmetic, and it will tell you whether it contains microplastics. You could also just look for polyethylene or polypropylene in the ingredients list.

Hey, if you need exfoliating action, that’s A-OK. Simply choose products using crushed walnut shells, oats, or poppy seeds–organic alternatives that are way better than plastic.


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