Congress bans the use of plastic microbeads

President Obama recently signed a bipartisan bill banning plastic microbeads. Microbeads are small plastic beads less than five millimeters in diameter.

“Plastic never goes away. The president was absolutely correct by banning microbeads,” said SLVHS junior Star Hagen-Esquerra.

They are ubiquitous in hundreds of beauty products, from moisturizer to cleanser to toothpaste. They are included in products for exfoliation.

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Microbeads are found in many beauty products

But while they unclog pores, they do clog waterways. Unfortunately, microbeads are so small that they cannot be filtered from waste pipes, and because they are made of plastic, they cannot dissolve in water.

“I love microbeads, but I do know we have to look after important marine life,” said SLVHS student Lexie Warner.

Environmental groups have been concerned about microbeads entering waterways for years.

Microbeads continue to clog United States waterways, particularly the Great Lakes. Up to eight trillion microbeads can enter U.S. waterways daily, and a 2015 report from State University of New York in Fredonia found 1,500 to 1.1 million microbeads per square mile in the Great Lakes.

And they are not easy to clean up. Because they are about the size of a pinhead, they would understandably be difficult to retrieve.

The dangers extend not only to our fresh waterways, but to the organisms that inhabit them. The freshwater fish who live in the waterways can potentially mistake the microbeads as food pellets and eat them. The beads are toxic, and these toxins can be absorbed by the fish. When humans eat the fish, the toxins can be passed on to them.

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Tiny microbeads are a major pollutant

“I don’t think this kind of toxification is okay, but I am not personally worried for my own health. I am worried about potential long term effects of it, though,” said SLVHS senior Bailey Tregembo.

This ban may mean the change for some of the most popular products in the United States. There are plenty of products which contain microbeads; however, there are also natural substitutes that serve the purpose microbeads once filled.

Some students at SLVHS had known about the issue associated with microbeads, and some did not, despite extensive awareness raised for the environmental issues of microbeads.

“We must care for the environment. It is only where we live,” said Hagen-Esquerra.

While we are making progress in legislation such as the one passed, there is still more we can do to protect our environment.

“I do think we should pay more attention to the environment as we did now. We are making progress, but we are not focusing as much on these issues as much as we should,” said Tregembo.

So, time to say goodbye to your old shower cleanser. But no need to fret: even though there are hundreds of products which include microbeads on their ingredients list, there are still many available which serve the same purpose, without microbeads.

“There are so many scrubs which care for the environment that we can use. We have to care for the fish,” said Warner.

By: Robert Jeffrey

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