Microplastic beads: how your exfoliating scrub might be harming the ocean

From ABC Environment, 10 September 2014:

Sparkles in your toothpaste. Exfoliating body scrub. Deep facial cleansers. When reading through the ingredients on your bathroom items, one item you wouldn’t expect to see is plastic. However, a significant number of personal care and cosmetic products contain tiny particles of plastic, called microbeads. Sometimes they’re added as an abrasive to get that deeper clean, but sometimes serve no purpose other than decoration.

While the idea of plastic flecks in toothpaste is alarming enough, of far greater concern is emerging evidence that these plastic microbeads and other tiny particles of plastic are finding their way into our waterways and embedding themselves in the marine food chain.

The term ‘microplastics’ — plastic particles or fibres less than five millimetres in size — was only coined a decade ago, but since then researchers have found significant quantities of microplastic on beaches and in marine sediments all around the world.

More recently, researchers from the University of New South Wales found microplastics in sediment samples from 27 different sites around Sydney Harbour. At one site, the concentration of microplastics was greater than that found outside a former plastics factory in Sweden. Read more.

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