Nearly 8 Trillion plastic microbeads polluting water every day in United States: Research
About 8 trillion Plastic Microbeads enter US Water Bodies Every Day

A research team lead by Oregon State University has estimated that nearly 8 trillion plastic ‘microbeads’ are entering the water bodies in the United States, every day. The increasing use of microbeads in many personal care and beauty products could have a major impact on our environment. Microbeads are tiny particles which offer abrasive function and are used in many products including face washes and toothpastes.

The major problem with microbeads is that their size. They are tiny and can easily pass through any filtering system and end up in the water bodies. Sewerage treatment plants are not able to filter microbeads and this leads to a major environmental hazard. With 8 trillion small pieces ending up in the water in the United States alone, we can imagine the impact it would have globally.

Many companies have committed that they will phase out the use of microbeads from their products over the next few years. There are few alternatives available for the use of microbeads but not many companies have adopted them till date.

Microbeads are now becoming a major part of the plastic pollution that it threatening the water quality of the resources humans, plants and animals depend upon. Scientists from seven institutions said that nontoxic and biodegradable alternatives are there for microbeads but the industry has to be pushed to use them.

Toothpaste, face wash, shampoo, body wash and many other abrasive scrubbers use microbeads to provide gritty texture to those products. Many companies have claimed in the past that they would phase out microbeads from the products.

Microbeads are similar in size to a grain of sand and they are drained out when we use the products containing them. These are usually able to escape the filtering systems and end up in the water bodies.

Microbeads are polyethylene microspheres that are widely used in cosmetics as exfoliating agents and personal care products such as toothpaste, as well as biomedical and health science research, microscopy techniques, fluid visualization and fluid flow analysis, and process troubleshooting.

Stephanie Green, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, and co-author of this report, said, “Contaminants like these microbeads are not something our wastewater treatment plants were built to handle, and the overall amount of contamination is huge. The microbeads are very durable.”

The research report added that states should consider a new legislation to ban the use of microbeads. The material that is persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic should not be allowed in products. Microbeads present a massive risk to our water bodies and they would end up in the food chain in a sizable amount in near future, if no action is taken to stop the contamination.

“Microbeads are just one of many types of microplastic found in aquatic habitats and in the gut content of wildlife,” said Chelsea Rochman, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California/Davis, and lead author on the analysis.

According to a report published by Environmental Advocates of New York, major personal care companies including Johnson and Johnson, L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive, Proctor and Gamble, and Unilever have already committed that their products will be microbead free in near future.

The research paper said, “Even though microbeads are just one part of the larger concern about plastic debris that end up in oceans and other aquatic habitat, they are also one of the most controllable.”

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