Microbeads Menace


It’s amazing how one simple tweak in purchases can tremendously help our oceans, and waterways.  Consider our body care products.


Microbeads are tiny pieces of spherical plastic used as scrubbing components in hundreds of personal care products including body wash, soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, anti-aging creams, and exfoliating scrubs.  One single product potentially contains thousands of microbeads.  When used as instructed, the product is rubbed on the skin, and then washed down the drain flowing directly into our water sources. Being smaller than one millimeter in size, microbeads easily slip through most water treatment systems.  Once in our marine environment, they accumulate quickly as they are impossible to remove and are not biodegradable.  They join the toxic plastic soup ever present and growing in our waterways.

These microbeads readily enter the food chain as they are tiny and look like food.  Once eaten, they quickly pass on to larger fish and wildlife making their way to the top of the food chain – humans.  As though eating plastic isn’t bad enough, those plastic beads are magnets for accumulate toxic chemicals already in the water, chemicals linked to a broad range of ailments ranging from birth defects to cancer.

Why would industry create such an environmental menace?  Plastic is Cheap.  How to avoid? Sometimes “Microbeads” is listed on the front label, otherwise read the ingredients.  Polyethylene (PE), and polypropylene (PP) are the plastics of choice.  While some products now boast “biodegradable plastics”, that is not a good alternative.  Plastic need high heat and light to biodegrade, conditions not present in a lake or ocean.  Many charts list microbead-containing products to avoid. Fortunately, there are many healthier alternatives available so watch for ingredients like oatmeal, ground nut shells, salt crystals, rice, apricot seeds, cocoa beans, and bamboo.

Many entities are passing legislation phasing out and/or banning microbeads.  Many European countries, Illinois and Michigan attempting to protect the Great Lakes, California, Vermont, and New York have all taken action.  Personal care product companies are also stating their commitment to phase out microbeads including Unilever, The Body Shop, L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive and more.  While Johnson & Johnson was initially the leader in this movement, recent findings indicate they found a loop hole and are replacing plastics with plastics.

While avoiding microbeads is a great start, fact remains, personal body care products are filled with harmful chemicals, further damaging our waterways and bodies. A simple Google search will help you identify those unsafe chemicals, but given their prevalence avoiding them is a challenge.  Fortunately, we have a wide range of 100% natural skin care products available locally at Celestial Body, 221 Main St.



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