The US government has banned microbeads in consumer products, moving the world’s oceans one step closer to safety. The ban is part of the Microbead-Free Waters Act that will go into full effect in 2017.
Microbeads are those little balls of plastic in products like face washes, soaps, and toothpastes. Usually they are used as an exfoliant. Their growing presence over the past decade has put the world’s waterways and marine life at risk.
Scientists have been ringing alarm bells over these small pellets, claiming that literally tons of them are polluting global waterways each year. CNN quoted a study saying 8 trillion microbeads are entering US waterways each day–that is enough to cover the surface of 300 tennis courts each day.
Globally, microbeads are seen as a hazard to marine life that often mistake the tiny floating balls of plastic for food. Ingesting the plastic is unhealthy for fish and for the humans (and animals) who eat the fish. Making matters worse, scientists say the tiny balls of plastic absorb toxins before being eaten, thus serving as a delivery system for harmful toxins into the world’s food supply. This is a warning that definitely make the next sushi meal look a little less tasty.
The bipartisan bill sped through the US congress as even the cosmetics industry had already started to take action to stop the production and use of microbeads.
This is a major step forward for the global environment and particularly for Global Goal 14: Protecting the oceans.
The US should be a catalyst for the rest of the world in taking steps to ban microbeads and protecting the world’s oceans in other ways. Because healthy oceans mean a steady supply of food for the world, a key to ending global hunger and extreme poverty.