The Danger of Microbeads

Author: F&F   Date Posted:13 January 2018 

The UK has banned the manufacture of microbeads. This took effect last week (Jan 2018). It is great news and another step towards reducing these nasty microparticles from our waterways and food chain. So what are these beads and what impact do they have?


What are microbeads?

Microbeads are tiny particles and they occur in many cosmetics including exfoliating scrubs, face washes, toothpaste amongst others. They are mostly made from polyethylene because they have a strong scrubbing action to exfoliate. 


What's the impact?

These tiny particles aren't biodegradable, being plastic, so they get washed down our drains and end up in our waterways and oceans filling our oceans and marine life with yet more plastic and slowly killing them and our ecosystem. Also these plastic beads absorb even more pollutants on their journey making a pretty toxic meal for a fish. And what eats fish? Bigger fish, marine animals and humans. Well we don't because we're vegan but these plastic traces get into our food supply. A nutritionist once said to me to never eat tuna and 'big' fish. She said the bigger they are the more toxic they are. 

In addition microbeads, and microplastic (microbeads are a subset of microplastics), can be found in our drinking water. A recent study showed 83% of tap water samples analysed from around the world had plastic fibres in them. These fibres come from the environment, synthetic clothes being washed, paint dust and they, like microbeads, can absorb toxins, which we drink, so this impacts our health. A good article to read on this is  by Orb Media


What are microbeads in?

Sadly lots of products including face cleansers, face scrubs, toothpastes, soap and hand wash can contain microbeads. A great reference article is here which list products with microbeads. But, as mentioned earliers microbeads are just one element of microplastics in our oceans and waterways. 


What does the ban mean? 

The ban in the UK means the manufacture of products containing microbeads is now banned. The ban on selling them will come later this year. Some other countries, including the US and NZ, ban them too but Australia isn't one of them yet; in Australia we have a voluntary phase out period where we are hoping companies will stop using them. We think there just needs to be a ban. 


What can I do to help?

1) Never buy anything with microbeads in it; if you see polyethylene, nylon or polypropylene on a label of a scrub or toothpaste it's more than likely microbeads. You can be safe in the knowledge nothing at Flora & Fauna has microbeads so our scrubs and toothpastes use only what nature gave us, not bits of plastic. 

2) Educate others with microbeads by sharing information so, as a society, we change our behaviour. 

3) Stay away from synthetic material garments so buy clothing that biodegrades like organic cotton. 

Comments (1)


By: on 21 January 2018
Thanks, this article was very informative and has educated me enough to refuse purchasing products containing microbeads. Toothpaste never crossed my mind! Will be showing friends and family !

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