Microbeads to be off shelves by 2017

Cleaning out your beauty cabinet can help clean up our ecosystem.

On Dec. 28th, President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 bill into law, banning the sales and distribution of microbead-filled products by July 1, 2017.

Microbeads are tiny, plastic particles commonly found in personal-care products – namely, face washes, body scrubs and toothpastes – that absorb chemicals as they are washed down the drain. They are too small to be filtered out of the water system, so they end up polluting large bodies of water where fish and other animals can get ahold of them, leading to illness or death.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, over 19 tons of microbeads are washed down drains every year in New York State alone. Marcus Eriksen, the director of research and cofounder of 5Gyres – “a community that fights ocean plastic pollution through education, science and activism” – found an average of 43,000 microplastic particles per square kilometer in the Great Lakes back in 2013.

The products microbeads are found in boast that they improve skin texture, providing exfoliation. Dermatologists tend to prefer the plastic spheres because they are less likely to scratch the skin as some other exfoliants do. But, when found in teeth whitening products claiming to help remove stains and brighten smiles can, microbeads may actually be harmful.

Michael Apa, DDS, told Refinery29, “Over time [they] can cause problems both with their abrasion when used with a sonic toothbrush against enamel, and [I’ve] heard of patients getting those micro scrubbers lodged in their gums, which can lead to gum irritation and site-specific bone loss, if not properly removed.”

Not to mention, if the fish that eat the microbeads are consumed by humans, they transfer the toxins in the plastic.

Several brands, including Johnson & Johnson and L’Oréal, have already removed or begun to phase out microbeads from their formulas. You can help the cause too. Replace microbead-containing products with natural exfoliants like oatmeal, sugar, ground coffee and baking soda.

Click here to see the full list of products from around the globe containing microbeads.