Featured Photo: Chip Weiskotten
2016 is starting on a positive note for the environment. President Obama signed a bipartisan bill that will ban the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads.
As outlined in the bill, a microbead is defined as any solid plastic particle measuring 5 millimeters or less used for the purpose of cleansing or exfoliation.
We’ve all likely used a product with microbeads, whether we know it or not. These particles are so tiny, some the size of a pinhead, it seems little damage can come from them.
To put the problem into perspective, a published study revealed more than 8 trillion microbeads were entering the environment every day. (Rochman, Cross, et. al.) That’s enough microbeads to cover the surface of 300 regulation size tennis courts every single day. Tiny microbeads have caused a huge problem.
Because these particles are solid plastic, they don’t break down or dissolve in water. When used in exfoliating cleansers and toothpastes, these particles wash down drains along with the used product and litter waterways. Microbeads are bad news for humans, too. Dentists have reported microbeads from toothpastes slipping under the gum line and staying there which is an invitation for a long list of dental problems.
Fish and other marine life are ingesting these particles that have entered their environment. Further, scientists including those at NOAA are researching potential detriments this poses to the affected marine life as well as to humans, who may later ingest the fish carrying microplastics.
The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 is a hugely positive step on the path to forever ending the daily onslaught of microplastics into marine environments.