Like aerosol cans, Styrofoam and the common car, oftentimes it takes us awhile to realize how detrimental our everyday products are to the environment. Turns out microbeads—the little artificial exfoliators living in your favourite face wash and toothpaste—are the newest addition to the shit list.
The seemingly harmless mini-scrubbers carry with them myriad consequences, from polluting underwater ecosystems to absorbing harmful chemicals like DDT. Microbeads are quietly destroying life below the surface, and could be making their way onto our dinner plates.
"Fish are ingesting them to the point their bellies fill up with plastic, and even marine birds as well, so it's a real problem in our ecosystem," says Halifax MP Megan Leslie, who recently spearheaded a campaign to ban the plastic particles from Canada. "There's not enough evidence to show the health impact, but we do know these act as little sponges that absorb chemicals like DDT and PCPs. They are so small that our water filtration plants actually can't filter them out."
Three weeks ago, Leslie presented the motion against microbeads in the House of Commons, and to her surprise got "unanimous support." She wants the government to immediately list microbeads as a toxin under the Environmental Protection Act.
"It's not going to be instant before we stop using these things," she says. "I really think people need to talk to their MPs, sign those petitions by Environmental Defence, talk to the media about it. Get people talking in their communities, because this is something the cosmetic industry and environment groups agree on. There's no reason why we can't move forward on this."
In the meantime, Leslie says take a look at the ingredients in your bathroom beauty products. "Look at your toothpaste, look at your face wash or, you know what? If you really gotta get your pores clean—use a washcloth."
You can sign Leslie's petition at ndp.ca/eliminate-microbeads or check out recipes for DIY face scrub alternatives literally anywhere on the internet. a