Call for UK ban on ‘microbeads’ pollutant

Toothpaste containing the speckled "microbeads".

Toothpaste containing the speckled “microbeads” [Image: Creative Commons].

All things considered, the case against “microbeads” seems – please excuse the use of language here – watertight.

But we have a Conservative Government that shies away from provoking industrialists.

Will the public have to raise a petition against this practice? If so, will enough of us care enough to make a difference?

Manufacturers should be banned from using polluting plastic “microbeads” in cosmetics and soaps sold in the UK, the leader of the Green Party has said.

Natalie Bennett made the call after US president Barack Obama signed a new law prohibiting the selling of products with the tiny plastic particles in them.

Microbeads are solid plastic balls less than 5mm wide. They are found in some toothpastes, body scrubs and other cosmetics and give products a “speckled” appearance.

The beads serve an aesthetic purpose but some manufacturers also claim they can help with exfoliation or cleaning.

The solid plastic particles however do not biodegrade and so can cause environmental damage when washed down the drain.

The beads are not filtered out by water treatment plans and it has been suggested that they can carry toxins once they themselves become contaminated.

Aquatic creatures have also been known to mistake the particles for food.

Source: Call for UK ban on ‘microbeads’ pollutant after Obama takes action in US | UK Politics | News | The Independent

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8 thoughts on “Call for UK ban on ‘microbeads’ pollutant

    1. Jonathan Wilson

      I’m guessing it should be um (Don’t have the fancy “u”) which is Micrometer = 0.005mm, which sounds about right as these things would have to be very small in toothpaste (they are only intended to be slightly abrasive – hence baking powder in some makes), possibly slightly larger in soap and dermal products like body scrub.

      The problem is that while the “natural” alternatives are often a bi-product of other stuffs (ground nut shells, apricot seeds, etc.), if they are used the fulfilment quantities would probably mean more cultivation and cutting of forests to grow the plants involved just to have enough product to add.

      Personally though I question if it really make any difference to the products or if, as is more likely, its all nothing more than a marketing gimmick – seriously how difficult is it to use a face cloth to scrub your body – FFS!

  1. Dez

    Strange that this tiny material issue has created a call for a worthy green petition yet there are many far worse industrial contaminants and human related issues that just seem to drop by the wayside for lack of focus and attack. I would be more concerned about the liberal use of fluoride in toothpaste again finally being challenged as having far more negative issues than benefits to human teeth. Genetically modified food labelling and contaminants are slowly being lobbied to this gullible Government as being no problem to the UK General Public. In the USA they have only just realised that this same toxic GM Pandoras box is open and very unlikely to be ever shut because of the huge lobby power of the Chemical industries and weak US Government. Industries will always have in their wallets paid for alleged independent experts willing to state that anything is safe. Unfortunately the press/media are reluctant to challenge these issues because of potential lost advertising revenue. Like all good industries when they are forced to remove toxic materials from their products they turn it around as if they are the good guys eg most cosmetics now show PARABEN free in bold caps…..why did they not prevent Paraben being used in first place most knew of its adverse properties….profit first, public safety second……

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I only suggested a petition because I doubt whether common-sense calls for the substance to be removed will be heard, and you’ll note that I also doubt whether any such petition would win popular support. I agree with you that there are other, and worse, concerns – this is what appeared in the media today.

  2. Neilth

    I suspect that Jonathon Wilson is right and it should read 5 micro m (Greek letter mu).

    We should be concerned about this stuff as it is a serious pollutant. I understand that the majority of our beaches all over the world are now composed of a significant proportion of plastics that are so small that they are not visible to the cursory glance but they are seriously damaging the ecology of the environment as they are killing off the micro organisms that form the foundation of the food chains, and those that ingest this stuff and are then eaten by bigger organisms are in turn poisoning these larger animals and getting into our food supplies.

    These micro beads coupled with the polystyrene which is mechanically broken down into another form of micro bead are not biodegradable and will continue to accumulate in higher and higher proportions threatening the extinction of whole sections of our biodiversity.

    Changing the subject can I offer you and Mrs Mike a happy new year and best seasons greetings to my fellow followers.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Thanks very much – Happy New Year to you and everyone else reading the blog.

Comments are closed.