June 27, 2013
Soap Microbeads Filling Great Lakes

Microbeads, those tiny exfoliating pieces of plastic in body washes and facial scrubs, are polluting lakes and oceans and killing fish according to International Science Times.

These findings come from a survey that is to be published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.

International Science Times said that the survey focused on plastic pollution specifically in the Great Lakes, “with researchers finding that abrasive microbeads, which are too tiny for water treatment plant filters, slip though drains and end up in the Great Lakes.”

Chemist and leader of the survey Sherri "Sam" Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia told Scientific American,

"The highest counts were in the micro plastic category, less than a millimeter in diameter. Under the scanning electron microscope, many of the particles we found were perfectly spherical plastic balls."

According to Scientific American, three of the five Great Lakes—Huron, Superior and Erie— are “awash in plastic.”

The Great Lakes survey found 600,000 microbeads per square kilometer in two separate Lake Erie samples.

The researchers apparently didn’t even know these microbeads where present because they are so small and they don’t float on the surface of the water.

Stiv Wilson of 5 Gyres, an environmental group that worked with Mason on the survey stated that once they realized the microbeads where present they also realized:

"Trillions and trillions and trillions of these beads are going into the water."

Climate change and pollution have been hot topics, what with Obama’s climate speech and the reports of a survey that says less pollution somehow equals more hurricanes.

Once plastic microbeads end up in bodies of water, the local marine life will start to suffer. The fish, turtles, and even birds will think the plastic is food and ingest it.

“Eating the microbeads deprives them of nutrients, because they only think they've eaten food, and the plastic can get stuck in their digestive systems,” says International Science Times.

5 Gyres is lobbying cosmetics companies to discontinue using plastic microbeads in their products, and so far Body Shop, L'Oreal and Johnson & Johnson have agreed.

5 Gyres would like to see companies to use organic exfoliating materials like pumice or walnut husks in place of the plastic microbeads.

Readers will have to read the survey that is to be published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin to see what else the survey had found and see how much the actual environment has been effected by the presence of the microbeads.

photo credit: SpringChick via photopin cc