You may well be a hardcore eco-warrior but still polluting without knowing due to those tiny plastic particles called microbeads.


Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that are usually less than 1 millimeter wide, almost too small to even be seen.

You will find them in scrubs, face wash, toothpaste and other personal care products. Being cheaper than their natural substitutes to manufacture, they have found their way in our day to day products since the early 90s.

What’s the matter with the bead?

Numerous animals like marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates commonly mistake plastic as food¹.

As such they become a rapidly spreading vehicle for contaminants in the ocean through the food chain and also by means of sea currents.

With other 8 trillion microbeads entering the US waterways daily, you can understand the extent of the issue. The toxic mix of chemicals includes polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which are known to cause all kinds of problems from neurological dysfunction to infertility.

How does it affect me?

Plastic materials have been found in more than quarter of fish sold at markets in Indonesia and California³. That gives you a clear idea of the current situation we are ‘swimming’ in.

The danger for humans does not only come from the plastic itself. As mentioned above, toxic chemicals attach themselves to the plastic particles, which is where the real danger lies. The risk to human health comes from the increased direct exposure to the plastic particles and plastic-associated chemicals when ingested in high quantities.

It has been recently found that up to 12.5 percent of the PBDEs attached to microbeads find there way into the fish tissue². This means that the potential threat to your health is making its way onto your plate.

What actions should I take?

We need to address this issue from its source; the personal care products that we are purchasing every day. BeatTheMicroBead is an awesome organization, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), that is helping to bring the change.

You can check the products that you purchase using their app (Apple / Google).

Also, consider reducing and refusing the use of plastic in general. This is because microbeads often come from recycled ground plastics or the one lost at sea.

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  1. Environmental science and technology
  2. RMIT University
  3. University of California