Microbeads, Our Water and Ocean Life

I recently read an article by David Suzuki which reminded me that even the smallest thing can have a big impact on our lives, our health and the health of our planet.

The article was about microbeads and the cost our ‘plastic’ lifestyle can have on our water ways.

Do you use personal products such as body scrubs, facial scrubs or toothpaste containing microbeads?


The tiny bits of plastic, less than five millimetres in diameter, are used as scrubbing agents. The problem is they are turning up everywhere, especially in oceans, lakes, and along shorelines and they are not biodegradable.

Research by the 5 Gyres Institute found an average of 43,000 beads per square kilometre in the Great Lakes, with concentrations averaging 466,000 near cities.

Do you eat fish?

Tests on fish from Lake Erie found an average of 20 pieces of plastic in medium-sized fish and eight in small fish. Cormorants, which eat fish, had an average of 44 pieces of plastic each.
It’s not just the plastic that harms animals; the beads absorb toxic chemicals, making them poisonous to any creature that mistakes them for food or that eats another that has ingested the plastic—all the way up the food chain. Because humans eat fish and other animals, these toxins can end up in our bodies, where they can alter hormones and cause other health problems.

Are microbeads in your tooth paste?

If your tooth contains microbeads they may find their way embedded under your gum line, which can cause inflammation and infection.

According to British Antarctic Survey scientist David Barnes, “One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics.”
Barnes and other researchers who compiled research from around the world say more plastic was produced in the first decade of this century than in the entire previous hundred years!

Some good news from product manufacturers:

Microbeads are among the newer developments in the brief history of our plastic lifestyle. The 5 Gyres Institute launched a campaign asking companies to remove them from products. So far, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble have agreed to do so. Several U.S. states and European countries are planning to ban the beads, and Environment Canada is studying the problem.

As consumers, we can avoid products containing microbeads and put pressure on companies and governments to end their use (5 Gyres has an online petition). And, because more than a third of all plastic is disposable packaging, such as bags and bottles, we can and must limit our overall use, and reuse or recycle any that we do use.

Lets be part of the solution!

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

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