It’s hard to believe something so small can have such a huge impact, but that’s exactly what we’ve discovered about plastic microbeads. People all across the country are worried that these small pieces of plastic pose a serious threat to the health of our water, wildlife, and citizens.
Synthetic microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic that are becoming more common in toothpaste, facial scrubs, and other personal care products. Unfortunately, they do not dissolve in water, and when washed down the drain they are too small to be picked up by treatment facilities’ filters. When they end up in our lakes and rivers, they absorb toxins such as dioxins and PCBs and are eaten by fish that mistake them for food. The problem was first noticed in the ocean when a 2008 study found that they were a serious threat to marine wildlife. Now, the problem has come to our own North Shore.
A recent study found that 18% of sampled fish taken from Lake Superior had microplastics in their stomachs. Scientists are increasingly concerned about the possibility that microbeads are introducing toxic chemicals into the food chain. In December 2014, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recommended that the state take action to phase out microbeads in personal care products, noting that there are safer, natural, alternatives such as ground almonds, oatmeal, and pumice.
Conservation Minnesota has made phasing out plastic microbeads a top priority because thousands of Minnesotans have expressed concern about this issue.