When companies add tiny plastic beads to personal care products, they go surprising places.
This is one crazy life cycle.
Nothing better than singing in the bathroom.
But next time you're in there, take two minutes between songs to look at what you might be using on your face...
...or your teeth.
A lot of personal care products contain itty bitty pieces of plastic.
The good folks at the Story of Stuff did a bit of investigating. What they found might make you think twice about what you're rubbing on your body.
They're called "microbeads," which is sort of a nice name considering the full story. Companies that make soap, makeup, facial scrubs, toothpaste, and other body care products often include tiny bits of plastic because it gives the products some texture.
There's no evidence these little beads do much. In fact, they are so tiny that they aren't very good at scrubbing, so you end up having to use the soaps and scrubs every day. Natural exfoliants like apricot shells work better — so much better that you wouldn't want to use the exfoliating products every day. See what happens here? You have to go back to the store more often to buy the body products with plastic exfoliants (which are cheaper than the natural alternatives, so companies like to use them). Whadda racket! But that's not even their biggest problem.
Those little plastic beads become tiny toxic bombs.
The beads go down the drain and into our rivers and oceans. Scientists have determined that after they leave your drain, they escape from water filtration plants and make their way into rivers and oceans. Acting like toxin sponges, they chemically "soak up" toxins from the water around them. Those little plastic beads can end up 1 million times more toxic than the surrounding water.
It gets worse: The toxin-filled beads are ingested by fish, which are eaten by bigger fish, which could be caught and eaten by you or me. From facial scrub to your stomach. How's that for a life cycle?
If you see any of the following ingredients: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, or polymethyl methacrylate, know that you're cleaning your body with plastic and contributing to plastic pollution in the environment that's poisoning our fish — yikes!
Ban the beads!
We can have beautiful skin and teeth without them. They are polluting our rivers and oceans. They are nasty and toxic, and they're hurting fish (and potentially us).
What's happening to put a stop to plastic microbeads?
Right now, about 18 U.S. states including California, Canada, Australia, and several countries in Europe are considering banning products that contain plastic microbeads. Unfortunately, industry is pushing back with a bill that leaves loopholes for the microbeads to be replaced with other kinds of plastics. The Story of Stuff Project is leading a coalition of over 100 groups to get these tiny plastic beads out of commerce. Ban the beads!