Plastic is everywhere, and we are pretty used to seeing it in plates, phones, furniture, and just about everything else. But have you ever considered plastic in soaps? Many shampoos, body washes, hand soaps, and toothpaste contain microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic often used as an exfoliant. But these deep cleansing plastic pieces are harmful to the Earth and its organisms.
In personal care products, microbeads are usually around one millimeter in size, making them easily go down the drain. But this also means that the beads are not filtered out of the sewage system, ending up in lakes, streams, and oceans. Sherri Mason, an associate professor at the State University of New York found “up to 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometer” in the waters of Lake Ontario.
Apart from the countless numbers of products using microbeads, the plastic does not decompose. Instead, they break down into smaller pieces, resulting in even more minuscule pieces of plastic in Earth’s bodies of water. Microbeads are also similar in size to fish eggs, and many marine animals mistake them for food. Microbeads absorb toxins, and when animals eat them, they ingest the toxins and chemicals taken in by the microbeads too. These tiny pieces of plastic don’t only affect marine life and ecosystems, but also people like you and me. Many of the fish that are affected by the plastics are caught and eaten by humans, and when the human eats the fish, there is a high possibility that (s)he is also digesting the chemicals absorbed by the microbead. So in a sense, when we clean and exfoliate our bodies, we are also poisoning our bodies. Cleanliness is important, but is it worth damaging the environment, animals, and ourselves?
Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. <http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313157701/why-those-tiny-microbeads-in-soap-may-pose-problem-for-great-lakes>.
“Plastic Microbeads: They’re Bad. But Together We Can Stop Them.” The Story of Stuff Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2016. <http://storyofstuff.org/plastic-microbeads-ban-the-bead/>.