Like many Freshman here at Penn State I am currently enrolled in CAS 100A, also known as speech class. For my upcoming speech assignment, my class was instructed to select a social issue that we would then explain to a class as well as come up with a policy to correct the issue. I wanted to select a unique topic other than the typical topics of why texting while driving is bad or why marijuana should be legalized. After several hours of researching, I came across the issue of microbeads being used in cosmetic products and why they are extremely harmful.
First you may ask, what exactly are microbeads. Microbeads are micro sized balls of plastic that are used in everyday cosmetic products such as soap, facewash, and toothpaste. While these small little beads may not seem come across as harmless, they actually are not. Microbeads are made out of plastic which means that they do not dissolve while a personal care product is being used. Because they do not dissolve, they end up being flushed down the drains. Although we have filtration systems in place with the purpose of filtering what is flushed down the drains, the miniscule size of the microbeads makes it nearly impossible for them to be filtered, thus allowing them to enter into our oceans and lakes.
Microbeads are estimated to enter our oceans and lakes by the thousands every time we use a product, which results in hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic being flushed into our waters daily. Researcher Sherri Mason wanted to find out for herself just how inflected our waters are with microbeads, so she went to the great lakes to collect data. Her findings were startling. She found that on average the lakes contained about 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer. Even more startling results found that Lake Ontario contains 1.1 million microbeads per square kilometer.
In addition to polluting our lakes and oceans, microbeads have other costly effects. Many marine animals mistake the microbeads for fish eggs as they have a similar resemblance, and end up eating the tiny pieces of plastic. Not only does this harm the fish as they have plastic in their bodies, but it harms us as humans as well. The food chain is alive and well. Fish eat food, and we then eat fish. But if these fish are eating microbeads, that means that we as humans are also eating the microbeads when we consume the fish. So now I wonder, when people become sick from eating fish, are they sick because it was undercooked or sick because they ate plastic microbeads? Researches have not yet been able to prove that microbeads are making people sick however it could be a cofounding variable.
Now knowing what we know, would a rational person stop using personal care products that contain microbeads in them? I personally would stop using them, as it takes little effort for me to switch to a different brand that does not use microbeads in their products. However, everybody is different and some people may not see it as a problem. Researchers and myself are in agreement that microbeads are terrible for the environment and in fact are more harmful than people think.
Zimmer, Russ. “Microbeads and the Ocean’s Plastic Smog.” TCA Regional NewsDec 29 2015. ProQuest. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.
Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.
Altavilla, Nicole. “Banning the Bead.” American Spa 01 2016: 1. ProQuest. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.