Microbeads are defined as plastic prices or fibers measuring less than 5mm. But microbeads in most commercial products measure around 1mm. They can be made from polyethylene (PE), but can be also be made of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon
Microbeads are found in hundreds of home care products like toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer and facial cleansers. Once washed down the drain, microbeads slip through waste water processing stations and into waterways. Ultimately, many end up contributing to the “plastic soup” in the world’s oceans.
These beads also attract toxins already present in water- like PCBs and DDT, PFCs, and Flame Retardants.
These microplastics serve as tiny docking stations for other harmful toxics to cling to- a single plastic particle can absorb up to 1,000,000 times more chemicals than the water around it! Birds and fish mistake these particles for fish eggs and routinely consume the highly concentrated microtoxins.
Fish and birds cannot tell microbeads from their traditional food sources like eggs and algae. This leads to an internal absorption. Belgian toxicologist Colin Janssen, from the University of Ghent, found that on average, each gram of mussel flesh contains one particle of plastic. Marine scientists have confirmed the negative impact of ingestion on fish populations and are concerned about the eventual effects on humans higher up the food chain.
The 5 Gyres Institute has found up 360,000 microbeads in one tube of home beauty product- the effect of micro beads on marine environments is anything but pretty.
Microbeads are easily replaced with natural, biodegradable alternatives that offer the same abrasive effects: nut shells, oatmeal, salt, and sugar to name just a few!