For years we’ve heard about vast islands of plastic debris floating in the oceans.
Now we’re learning that plastic pollution is contaminating freshwaters as well--- only from a source that likely will surprise you.
What are they?
They’re abrasive particles found in all kinds of products, including toothpaste, liquid soaps, and industrial cleaners. They scrub, remove dead cells, unclog pores, and give us sparkling teeth.
But they also don’t dissolve. Instead, they wash down the drain, through water treatment systems, and into our lakes, rivers, and, eventually, oceans.
They also absorb and retain chemicals contaminants.
“Fish and other water creatures ingest them, either because they look like food or because they’re so small they just get sucked in with the plankton or whatever else is for lunch,” says the Chicago Tribune.
“The pellets --- and the contaminants --- get passed up the food chain until they land on our plates disguised as pecan-crusted walleye.”
Thus far, researchers have found the microbeads in water samples taken from lakes Superior, Huron, and Erie. And now they’re going to check out Michigan and Ontario.
In some portions of Erie, scientists found more than 600,000 particles per square kilometer.
Not so coincidentally, Johnson & Johnson has announced that it will phase out products with microbeads.
“At the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, we’ve already begun the phase out of polyethylene microbeads in our personal care products. We have stopped developing new products containing plastic microbeads, and we are currently conducting an environmental safety assessment of a promising alternative.
“This assessment is part of our ‘informed substitution’ approach, which helps ensure that the alternatives we choose are safe and environmentally sound, and that they provide consumers with a great experience. Our specific plans will be developed once this assessment is complete.”