They may have a cute name but microbeads are dangerous enough for President Obama to have banned them in rinse-off cosmetics in America. Now MEP Alyn Smith is alerting Scotland's citizens to the dangers of the beauty industry’s favourite microplastic.
Microbeads - or microplastics - are commonly found in everyday household cosmetics such as cleansers, shower gel and toothpaste. Usually smaller than 5 millimetres, they cannot be filtered out through most water filtration systems, and so are flowing into the oceans and, from there, into the food chain.
Alyn Smith MEP has written to the European Commission to ask what action can be taken at EU level.
“I personally believe that EU-wide action is the only effective way to stop microplastic pollution and prevent further damage to our environment.
“Cosmetics are the ideal starting point, as the USA has already banned microbeads from all rinse-off cosmetics, and the Swedish Chemicals Agency has proposed that Sweden follow suit.
“None of those tiny pieces of plastic pouring down our plugholes are biodegradable, and collecting them would require a very fine mesh that would kill fish and plankton.
“This isn’t only an environmental issue. Ingesting microplastics simply isn’t good for you. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), microbeads act as sponges and absorb the pollutants from the surrounding water, in addition to hosting chemicals already present in the plastic. Fish eat the microbeads, and then we eat the fish.
“Microbeads are a great exfoliant but, as we’ve seen several big-name cosmetic brands already pledge not to use microplastics in their products, it will be easy for them to switch to alternatives such as rice, powdered shells or jojoba beads.”