Eight trillion plastic microbeads are entering our oceans each day, enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts, and now scientists are calling for them to be banned.
According to Science World Report, the microbeads are spreading throughout the seas and are causing harm to the water quality, wildlife, and resources used by people.
In a recent study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, seven scientists from different institutions explain that there are nontoxic and biodegradable alternatives that can be used in replacement of microbeads, which are used in hundreds of products from face washes to toothpaste.
“We’re facing a plastic crisis and don’t even know it,” Stephanie Green, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, and co-author of the study, said.
“Part of this problem can now start with brushing your teeth in the morning,” she continued. “Contaminants like these microbeads are not something our wastewater treatment plants were built to handle, and the overall amount of contamination is huge. The microbeads are very durable.”
The 8 trillion plastic microbeads being emitted into the water each day are made of synthetic polymers including polyethylene, polylactic acid (PLA), polypropylene, polystyrene, or polyethylene terephthalate, and are used to create a gritty texture in products.
The main concern with the microbeads is their durability, and take a long time to disintegrate. They are very small and can easily pass through a filtering system and end up in the water bodies. Therefore, scientists are urging legislation to ban the microbeads.
“Microbeads are just one of the many types of microplastic found in aquatic habitats and in the gut content of wildlife,” said Chelsea Rochman, lead author of the study. “We’ve demonstrated in previous studies that microplastic of the same type, size and shape as many microbeads can transfer contaminants to animals and cause toxic effects. We argue that the scientific evidence regarding microplastic supports legislation calling for a removal of plastic microbeads from personal care products.”
The scientists wrote in their report that “new wording should ensure that a material that is persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic is not added to products designed to go down the drain. The probability of risk from microbead pollution is high, while the solution to this problem is simple.”
According to their report, Unilever, The Body Shop, IKEA, Target Corporation, L’Oreal, Colgate/Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson have already pledged to stop using microbeads in their “rinse-off personal care products.”
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