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8 Trillion Microbeads from Beauty Products Found to Pollute US Aquatic Habitats

Microbeads
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons / gentlemanrook / CC)

Plastic packaging and other garbage are not the only objects polluting the oceans.

Now, according to a group of scientists from the Oregon State University, microbeads from cosmetic products are building up in U.S.' marine environments, KRWG News22 reported.

These tiny plastic beads, which are less than 5mm in size, are added to various products such as soap, body scrubs, facial wash, and toothpaste to enhance their cleaning and exfoliating properties. However, once people use these products, their microbeads are washed away through the drains of sinks and in showers.

Since these beads are plastic and take a very long time to break down, they accumulate at the bottom of various bodies of water such as oceans, lakes and rivers. According to the data collected by researchers, about 8 trillion microbeads pass through the drainage system and end up in aquatic habitats every day. The researchers noted that this amount can easily blanket 300 tennis courts.

"Part of this problem can now start with brushing your teeth in the morning," Stephanie Green, the co-author of the study said in a statement according to KSL.com.

"Contaminants like these microbeads are not something our waste-water treatment plants were built to handle, and the overall amount of contamination is huge," she added.

Due to their size, these beads can be mistaken by marine animals as food. Although the researchers are still studying the effect of these beads on fish, they said the toxic chemicals from microbeads can then be passed on to humans after consuming these marine animals.

Due to the environmental and health dangers that microbeads can cause, the researchers have called on companies to ban them from various products. Major manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson and Unilever have already agreed to stop using microbeads in their products after learning about the researchers' report.

Aside from these companies, the public is also rallying against the use of plastic microbeads. Earlier this month, the California State Assembly has passed a bill for the total ban of microbeads in products.

"This legislation will eliminate the billions of plastic microbeads that are dumped into California's precious freshwater and marine environments every day," Mark Murray, the executive director of the Californians Against Waste organization said according to the Huffington Post.

"I am confident that if the [Democratic Governor Jerry Brown] signs this bill, future generations will look back and wonder why these tiny pieces of plastic were even considered for use in products that are designed to be washed down the drain," he added.

The report by the researchers from the Oregon State University was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Tags Microbeads, Cosmetic Products, Beauty Products, Environment, Marine Animals, Science, Study

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