Microbeads are tiny spherical particles often found in various healthcare and beauty products such as toothpaste, facial cleansers, and body wash. While these beads are used for exfoliation and polishing for the purpose of you being cleaner, it however is not the same for the environment. It may seem like insignificant issue because microbeads are tiny (usually smaller than 2 millimeters), however they are not degradable. This makes them easy to wash down the drain without causing plumbing issues; but they do not get filtered during water treatment.
Microbeads absorb other toxic pollutants such as pesticide and motor oil. If a single microbead can contain so many other toxic materials, imagine the impact of hundreds and thousands of them washing through watering systems. Consumption of it endangers wildlife (such as fish, and other animals that eat fish and drink water from streams). When we consume these animals, we are essentially digesting plastic (and who knows what it absorbed) as well. This creates a cycle that greatly affects wildlife as well as us.
It is because they are long-lasting and cheaply manufactured, that they are favored by many cosmetic brands, versus opting for bio-degradable plastics which require a larger scale facility to create. Microbeads are smooth and non-abrasive, and take a while to actually exfoliate the skin, which then causes consumers to purchase the product more often and drive up sales. However there are many campaigns and organizations fighting against it (and many states and countries trying to ban it):
- Beat the Microbead (http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/en)
- World Oceans Day (http://www.worldoceansday.org/help-us-beat-the-microbead/)
- Perseus (http://www.perseus-net.eu/site/content.php?locale=1&sel=419&artid=405)