Microbeads Pose Pollution Threat

Photo courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

DOING SOMETHING AS SIMPLE as washing your hair may raise a new threat to aquatic health. Many personal-care products have been formulated with plastic beads the size of a sand grain — known as microbeads — which add a gritty texture. Microbeads are designed to be flushed down the drain.

An analysis by a team of researchers, including Stephanie Green, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, concluded that 8 billion microbeads were being washed down drains in the United States on a daily basis. “We’re facing a plastic crisis and don’t even know it,” says Green.

With growing awareness of this problem, a number of companies have committed to stop using microbeads in their “rinse off” personal care products. In January, Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act.