Scrawl this at the top of your grocery list in ink: "No more plastic microbeads." With environmental groups raising hue and cry, lawmakers in New York and Illinois are moving fast to ban the weird, gross exfoliators. In the meantime: Let's all quit buying them, shall we?
NPR has gruesome details about the environmental impact of the microbeads so common in various washes, which are honestly pretty weird anyway. Because they're small enough to slip through many water treatment systems, they're draining into places like the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario in particular. And that is bad, bad, bad:
"They are about the same size as fish eggs, which means that, essentially, they look like food. To any organism that lives in the water, they are food," Mason says. "So our concern is that, essentially, they are making their way into the food web."
And if fish eat microbeads, which can soak up toxins like a sponge, scientists suggest that those chemicals could be passed on to humans and wildlife.
In the grand, ecological scheme of things, you may basically be rubbing DDT all over your face.
Bills to ban the beads, introduced in February by lawmakers in Illinois and New York, are quickly making their way through both state legislatures. In the meantime, L'Oreal, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble all say they're "phasing out" the nasty little devils. God knows what kind of corporate timeline they're working on, though.
Until then, Illinois state Sen. Heather Steans (who reps a lakefront district and is particularly keen to get rid of these things) recommends you read the label of anything you buy: "If they have polyethylene or polypropylene on the labels, that indicates there's plastic in them." You'll be doing right by the environment, with the added benefit of keeping something as sketchy-sounding as "polyethylene" off your skin. Gross.
Photo via AP Images.