US president Barack Obama has officially signed into law the so-called Microbead-Free Waters Act on 28th December of this year. Simply put, this effectively bans the manufacture and sale of the tiny particles of plastic microbeads that are often found inside toothpastes, soaps and even body scrubs and washes. It should be noted that the ban in question will stringently take effect from July 1st, 2017, and the pertinent powers of the Act were already approved earlier this month by the House of Representatives.
Now to put things into perspective, according to an analysis done recently, it was found that United States alone dumps around a whopping 8 trillion bits of plastic every day into the country’s proximate oceans and lake. The predicament is specially bothersome since these tiny particles have a tendency to bypass through sewage treatment plant filtration systems. And the worst part is – even the eco-conscious citizens may be adding to this pollution problem by just brushing their teeth.
And beyond the human ambit, the size of the plastic microbeads are quite similar to fish eggs; and so marine-based organisms, including fish and birds, view them as food, by apparently mistaking them for fish eggs. To that end, the precarious scenario may have very well resulted in 90 percent of seabirds (unintentionally) ingesting the potentially harmful particles.
In geographical terms, the Great Lakes are adversely affected by the daily release of these tiny components into their water zones. In fact, Illinois already became the first state in United States to ban the manufacture and sale of such products containing microbeads from June of 2014. And the good news from the commercial perspective is that bigwigs like L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble have announced their plans to completely phase out the material in the coming years. Furthermore, there are specific apps (like this one) that gives the consumer the ability to scan a product’s barcode with just his/her smartphone, so as to determine whether it contains microbeads.