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  • Should you be worried about microbeads? Pick up a bottle of facial scrub and

  • there's a chance it'll contain these really small beads of plastic. They're

  • designed to gently strip away the outer dead layers of your skin, and leave you

  • feeling tingly fresh. Since the nineteen nineties, these beads have been used in

  • thousands of products: foundations, facial scrubs, shampoos, exfoliants, soaps, face polish ...

  • whatever that is, and even toothpaste. They're typically around a millimeter or less in

  • diameter, so similar in size of a grain of sugar. Unfortunately, while they seem

  • to be effective, they may be creating problems. In 2013, researchers discovered

  • that these microbeads were appearing in the environment, and they raised the alarm

  • over possible adverse impacts. Since then, ten states in the US have restricted sales

  • of microbead-containing products, and similar legislation is pending in six more.

  • There are also proposals on the table for a federal ban on the use of microbeads in the US.

  • But how concerned should you really be?

  • Polyethylene - the plastic most microbeads are made of - is pretty non-toxic.

  • It doesn't cause cancer, it doesn't seem to be a problem if you eat it, and it doesn't irritate your skin.

  • In fact it doesn't do much of anything, including dissolve, or decompose.

  • And this is where things get tricky. Microbeads in personal care products

  • eventually end up being washed down the drain. And because they're so small, they

  • escape capture in wastewater treatment plants, eventually ending up in

  • rivers, lakes, and oceans. Once there, because they don't degrade or sink,

  • they stick around. For a long, long time. This is an environmental red flag in itself.

  • But there is another problem.

  • Microbeads suck up toxic chemicals, and then potentially release them elsewhere,

  • including into mussels, crabs, fish, and other organisms, that may ultimately end up

  • on your dinner plate.

  • Of course, how dangerous this is depends on how large the resulting exposures are.

  • Professor Sherri Mason at the State University of New York at Fredonia is

  • one scientist working on the problem. Sherri and her colleagues have measured up to

  • a million microbeads per square kilometre at the surface of Lake Ontario.

  • This is roughly equivalent to a polyethylene concentration of

  • six parts per billion.

  • This may not sound a lot. And it wouldn't be if the plastic was the

  • only problem. But even at this low concentration, toxins absorbed to the

  • microbeads could be an issue. To make matters worse, organisms that do take up

  • beads, concentrate them into a smaller volume, potentially leading to higher exposures.

  • And this isn't an issue confined to microbeads. Micro plastics,

  • millimeter-sized fragments of the plastic rubbish we're continually dumping

  • into the environment, also suck up toxins, and pass them up the food chain.

  • But microbeads certainly add to the problem.

  • At this point we don't know how big of a challenge we're facing, but without a doubt,

  • microbead raise some serious red flags. On top of this though there is another issue

  • with microbeads, even before they disappear down the drain. And that's

  • their use in toothpaste. Some toothpastes include microbeads to, you guessed it,

  • leave you with that tingly fresh feeling after brushing. The trouble is, some of those

  • beads can end up lodged between your gums and your teeth. No one's sure yet whether

  • this is a problem.

  • The American Dental Association for instance doesn't think that microbeads

  • are unsafe. But they are monitoring the situation. That said, some dental

  • professionals are worried that, because microbeads stick around for so long,

  • getting them lodged in your guns could potentially increase the chances of

  • developing diseases like gingivitis. In the meantime some companies are

  • phasing out the use of microbeads in toothpaste,

  • though mainly because they'd prefer to play it safe with their customers. The bottom line is there's

  • a lot we still don't know about the potential risks of microbeads. But given their size,

  • persistence, and propensity to soak up toxic chemicals, there's a pretty good

  • chance that they'll end up causing harm somewhere. So next time you reach for the

  • facial scrub, or the microbeads soap, you might just spare a thought to future generations,

  • who are going to have to clean up the mess, that you may just be contributing to.

  • For more information on microbeads, do check out the links in the blurb below.

  • And as always, stay safe.

Should you be worried about microbeads? Pick up a bottle of facial scrub and

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B1 US microbeads toothpaste facial problem toxic potentially

Should you be worried about Microbeads?

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    黃潮祿 posted on 2015/12/12
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