Microbeads Ending Up In the Great Lakes

Found in face and body washes

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    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The microbeads in your face wash—tiny exfoliating pieces of plastic—are polluting the Great Lakes and killing fish, according to a study published in Marine Pollution Biology. The study found 600,000 microbeads per square kilometer in two separate Lake Erie samples.

Too tiny for water treatment plant filters, the abrasive microbeads slip down your drain and into the water supply. Birds, turtles, and fish mistake the beads for food, and consume the small particles, damaging their digestive tracks and depriving them of nutrients.

"A concern with microplastics is that they're even more widely dispersed, and small enough to be eaten by a much more diverse group of organisms. Once ingested, these compounds and anything they've absorbed can be magnified up the food chain," Kirk Havens, a researcher at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, told the International Science Times.

After lobbying by scientists, cosmetic companies Body Shop, L'Oreal, and Johnson & Johnson have agreed to swap out the plastics for organic materials.

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