Microbeads: What You Need to Know

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Microbeads are constantly making headlines these days.

With California electing to ban microbeads in products sold in their state, people across the world are wondering what’s the big deal?

What are microbeads?

Essentially, microbeads are tiny little bits of plastic that have been put in our hygiene products to convince us they somehow “clean” better. They provide a bit of a rough feeling, which makes people mentally convinced that they’re better for cleaning. However, they don’t clean any better than natural alternatives like sand, and on top of that, they’re terrible for the environment. You’ll often see them in things like face scrubs or body wash.

Not only are they clogging up our oceans, marine life eat them when mistaking them for food, which ends up getting plastic into our food chain.

Microbeads ended up in our oceans, waterways, and our food for no other reason than money. They’re cheaper to produce than the natural alternatives, so companies jumped on board to save on manufacturing costs.

For a more scientific approach from the Story of Stuff:

The composition of microbeads can vary and often include polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon. Bottom line, it’s all plastic!

A great video for reference: click here.

Why are they a big deal?

According to the Washington Post, around EIGHT TRILLION microbeads pollute aquatic habitats every single day. That is an insane amount of pollution entering our waterways.

These bits of plastic have invaded our toothpaste, body wash, face wash, and other various bathroom products.

The problem comes from the fact that most water treatment plants are not equipped to clear microbeads from the water, and as a results they end up in our oceans, lakes, streams, and our seafood. We end up eating the fish that eat the microbeads, which is how the plastic and chemicals that make up the beads get into our bodies.

During all my research, I could not find one good reason why microbeads exist. Exfoliation is wonderful for the skin, but that’s not what these are.

Are microbeads safe?

Great marketing campaigns have convinced us that microbeads are “better” for scrubbing, however, dentists have come out saying that these beads are getting stuck in people’s teeth and causing more damage than originally thought.

It ends up looking like this:

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Yeah, not exactly something you want in your gums.

As mentioned earlier, these are not just in toothpaste, they’re in a ton of household  and self-care cleaning products.

The best we can do is to actively spend our money on companies and on products that do not have microbeads in them.

How to avoid microbeads:

  1. Read the labels. If it has polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyethylene terephthalate in them, it’s plastic. You’ll want to avoid any products with this one the list. Not to mention, do you really want to scrub your face with plastic?
  2. Download the free PDF from beatthemicrobead.org to know what products to buy instead.
  3. Sign the petition from 5Gyres to ban the bead.

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