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Micro-beads in Your Toothpaste

Micro-beads May be Lurking in Your Toothpaste or Other Cosmetic Products

Crest MultiCare Whitening toothpaste. Photo by Scott Ehardt. Released into the public domain.

Crest MultiCare Whitening toothpaste. Photo by Scott Ehardt. Released into the public domain.

By GET Staff

Plastic micro-beads can be used as very gentle abrasives, and are soft enough that they wind up being used as abrasives in toothpaste.

Many of us might ask why anything so benign could be a problem. Actually, the fact that they are so small is itself part of the problem. When we use them in toothpaste, they get between the teeth and the gums. They do not degrade easily, and most do not biodegrade at all. In addition to the fact that they do not decompose, they offer homes for bacteria to thrive. Dentists can remove them in normal cleaning, though this may require extra care.

Microbes also cause environmental damage. The largest micro-beads are mistaken for food by fish. The smallest, which can be as small as five micrometers, can be consumed by single-celled microbes. Some of the plastics absorb poisons and hold them in the food chain, concentrating in and leaching the poisons into larger predators, such as salmon and trout, the very food we like to eat.

We might think that the little bit of toothpaste we use should not be a problem. But if a dab of toothpaste contains a thousandth of an ounce of micro-beads, when hundreds of millions of people each spit down the drain, the tiny portions add up to tons. According to the state’s Attorney General, New York releases 19 tons each year. And where does the water from our drains eventually end up?

Some states are banning micro-beads in toothpaste, and some companies are ceasing their use. Crest has announced they will give up micro-beads in March of 2016. Other companies given sufficient reason, will,follow suit.

Many other products also contain micro-beads such as Aveeno daily scrub, AXE Scrub with Vitamin C, Ayur-medic Anti-bacterial Wash with Exfoliating Beads, Bliss scrubs and body buffs, Caress, Clean & Clear, Clearasil and Clinique scrubs and cleansers. See lists of products that do and that do not contain these plastic beads at beatthemicrobead.org.

A recent article in the Washington Post noted that up to eight trillion micro-beads enter aquatic habitats in America each and every day! That’s enough to cover 300 tennis courts! California and Connecticut recently banned these unnecessary beads, and with your help Vermont can be next. Let your state senators know that you support a ban on micro-beads. You can also sign a petition to support a ban on micro-beads in Vermont from VPIRG at http://bit.ly/ban-the-beads.

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