Thursday, July 31, 2014

Save our lakes, oceans, and rivers: Ditch microbeads

Lake Huron as seen from Mackinac Island
I had heard of microbeads a long time ago, tiny pieces of plastic used in facial scrubs that can harm fish and other wildlife. I had been avoiding facial scrubs for that reason, and also because I didn't think scratching at my sensitive skin with pieces of plastic was a great idea.  I was feeling safe, then, when I saw a PBS article about how microbeads are hurting my beloved Great Lakes.  

But just to be safe, I did a search for "products containing microbeads." I checked the product lists on and found that I had a traitor in my midst.  My husband has been using Crest Complete Multi-Benefit for years because he loves the cinnamon flavor, and that product was listed as containing microbeads.  These plastic bits in Crest products are bad for the Great Lakes (and oceans, and rivers), and a dental hygienist says that the tiny beads are also bad for consumers. She has found plastic lodged in her patients' gums. And maddeningly, the microbeads are included in the toothpaste not because they help clean teeth, or add any real benefit to consumers, but because they look pretty:

So far the only mention of polyethylene on the Official Crest website at this link is that it is added to your paste for color, not as an aid in helping to clean your teeth or to disperse important anti-plaque or anti-cavity ingredients.
In other words, according to Crest:
Polyethylene plastic is in your toothpaste for decorative purposes only.
Proctor & Gamble, the parent company of Crest, says that it will stop including plastic in its toothpaste by 2017.  I plan to stop buying the product immediately. By the way, Proctor & Gamble is not alone -- other companies, including supposedly-environmentalist cosmetics giant The Body Shop, have microbeads in their products, though are planning to phase them out sooner, by 2015.

I don't want plastic in my personal-care products.  I believe that a lot of other consumers would stop using these products if they realized that they contained bits of polyethylene, and could harm water and wildlife.  Water-treatment plants aren't equipped to screen out these tiny particles, so they go right into lakes, rivers and oceans.  And these products don't supply any real benefit to consumers that they can't get from safe and natural sources.

If you agree with me that you would like companies to stop including microbeads in their products, let them know.  You can contact the companies whose products you use and ask them to remove microbeads from their products now.  You can encourage your legislators to follow the lead of Illinois  and ban microplastics in personal-care products. You can tweet your support of plastic-free products in the hopes that they will speed up their phase-out of these ingredients:

In the meantime, while you wait for your favorite products to stop using microbeads, you can use the lists or the Plastic Soup app to make sure that the new products you're buying don't contain them either. Protect your favorite waterways.

Mission Bay in San Diego

The Maumee River
Looking at these pictures makes me wish I had a huge blog audience like Food Babe, who was able to get Subway to stop using azodicarbonamide.  If you can help by adding your voice in support of our lakes, oceans, and rivers, please do.  

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