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Plastic microbeads inserted into everyday products from facial creams to toothpaste are causing an environmental mess...
The NSW government has called for a national ban on the sale and production of shampoos and other products containing microplastics before they inflict worse damage on marine environments. Read the full article on the Sydney Morning Herald by clicking here.
Microbeads are minute pieces of plastic defined as 0.1 to 0.5 millimetres in size, used to give beauty products like facial and body scrubs a grainy texture for exfoliation. They're advertised as a healthy beauty advance, but in reality they are an ecological nightmare hastening an already dire problem - the global pollution of our oceans from plastic.
Microbeads enter our environment washed down bathroom drains, and what makes them especially threatening is that they are already broken down into teeny-tiny almost invisible pieces of plastic.
To small to be filtered by sewerage systems, microbeads swiftly flow into our oceans, rivers and lakes where they float and absorb toxins, then are ingested by marine life because they resemble fish eggs. This makes them even more immediately dangerous than a discarded drink bottle!!
It is highly likely that humans then consume the toxins when they eat the fish or animals who have ingested the plastics.
So why do people think it's such a good idea to wash their faces with plastic? Is it the health benefits?
According to Associate Professor Greg Goodman, a fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, the health benefits are almost none! People are surprised to learn that it's actually plastic in their facial scrub – and a lot of it, too.
The plastics found in microbeads like polyethylene and polypropylene are the same types of plastic used to make milk jugs, bottles and other common household containers.
Washing your face shouldn't be an act of pollution, and it just doesn't make sense to use plastic filled products when there are sustainable natural alternatives which do the job; like an oatmeal soap, or ground almonds, sugar, and salt are excellent natural exfoliants too.
The use of microbeads in cosmetics is recent - dating only to the middle of the last decade - but there is already a backlash against the harm they are doing. Just last week Illinois became the first jurisdiction in the world to ban plastic microbeads from personal care products after an extensive study of the Great Lakes found a horrifying 1,500 to 1.1 million particles per square mile, with the highest concentration in Lake Ontario.
This is an important decision which could lead to many more like it.
In Australia, there has been little study of the harm caused by microbeads, but coastal management experts say harm is being done to marine life and potentially to humans.
The Body Shop is leading the way to phase out the use of microbeads, with a spokeswoman telling Fairfax Media its products would be microbead-free by the end of this year.
However consumers do not have to wait until bans are put in place, or for major companies to phase out microbeads form their products. Just boycott any store-bought products that might contain microbeads.