Microbeads banned in U.S. to help protect environment

Microbeads banned in U.S. to help protect environment

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - They can be found in popular face washes, scrubs, and even toothpastes, but those little beads meant to make your teeth sparkle or make your skin brighter - can be harmful to the environment.

That's why President Obama has now banned microbeads with the hopes of protecting our water and marine life.

Lots of people love products that contain the beads, but the problem with them is they don't dissolve.

"The microbeads are about the size of the tip of a sharp pencil, so they're quite small."

From toothpaste, to exfoliating face washes or scrubs, microbeads can be found in quite a few popular cosmetic products. But, while many people like the sensation of the extra product in their cleansers, we now know these microbeads are made of Polyethylene, which is the most common plastic that makes bags, bottles, and even bulletproof vests. You can also find this type of plastic in polluted waters, on bird's beaks, and dolphin's noses.

"Scale all of that down to the micro-environment these organisms are consuming, and their guts are even smaller."

Doctor Sue Ebanks with Savannah State's Marine Science Program talked to us about how these super small microbeads affect marine life.

"So, when an organism consumes particles that do not provide any nutritional value, it just sits in their gut."

Ebanks adds the big deal is that we may eat fish that eat these small organisms, and there could be an impact on us as well. This is just one of the reasons it is now banned in the U.S. However, if your favorite product contains these microbeads, Doctor Ebanks says you shouldn't worry.

"Not all exfoliates are not bad. There are natural alternatives, and I think that's something important for consumers to look at."

She also says this is a step in the right direction, but there is a lot more to be done to reduce plastics in our environment.

A single cosmetic product can contain up to 300,000 non-biodegradable microbeads.

Click here for a list of items that contain these tiny particles.

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