Though this news was released in September, few have been informed of a ban by the UK government to benefit the environment.
Tiny exfoliating beads found in face washes, body soaps, and toothpaste might feel good against one’s skin as they lather and repeat, but the plastic particles have actually been found to wreak havoc on the environment, as well as to be potentially harmful to human health.
ENN explains that mounting evidence has confirmed that the minuscule beads harm the environment as they pass through filtration systems intended to trap debris and pollutants. When flushed into the ecosystem, they find their way into the bodies of small aquatic animals and the process of biomagnification begins. As bigger wildlife consume smaller animals, the exfoliating beads are eventually found in larger creatures, such as big fish.
In addition to being detrimental to the beings’ health, the microbeads contain harmful chemicals such as PCBs that alter hormones in wildlife and humans. ENN relays:
“Estrogen-induced health problems can include behavioral changes in male fish along with damage to fish eggs that causes impairments and nonviability. Their size makes the problem even worse, as they look at a glance like fish eggs, a tasty snack enjoyed by many aquatic animals: It’s like setting out a chocolate cake laced with poison.”
Because few consumers consciously make the effort to avoid microbeads in store-bought products, the UK is set to ban the tiny plastic pieces by 2017. A statement released by Gov.UK relays that Environment Secretary Andrew Leadsom announced early September that microbeads used in cosmetic and personal care products will be banned, likely within the year.
“Adding plastic to products like face washes and body scrubs is wholly unnecessary when harmless alternatives can be used,” said Secretary Leadsom. “Most people would be dismayed to know the face scrub or toothpaste they use was causing irreversible damage to the environment, with billions of indigestible plastic pieces poisoning sea creatures.”
This news follows the introduction of the 5p plastic bag charge, which is estimated to have resulted in 6 billion fewer bags being tossed into landfills this year alone. Banning microbeads is the next step in ensuring humans return to being stewards of the environment.
“This government is committed to its promise to be the first generation ever to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited, and together we can bring an end to these harmful plastics clogging up our oceans,” concluded the UK Secretary.
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