Water pollution

How Microbeads Affect Humans

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: January 20, 2017
How Microbeads Affect Humans

Microbeads are solid, non-biodegradable, tiny plastic particles that are usually less than 1mm in dimension. They are usually made up of polyethylene, but they can also be made up of polystyrene, polypropylene and other petrochemical based plastics. You will often see tiny plastic beads lingering in exfoliating products like scrubs, tooth pastes, face washes and other personal care products. After a recent discovery in the Great Lakes, there has been much hype about banning the use of microbeads, as they cause a lot of environmental and health related damage. In this OneHowTo.com article, let’s see how microbeads affect humans.

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Effects of microbeads

  • According to a recent study, more than 663 species are affected adversely due to marine debris. 11% of them are said to be related to microplastic ingestion alone. Single use of a personal care product with microbeads results in release of around 5000 to 95000 microbeads, due to which billions of microbeads have been released in the oceans over the last few years. This leads to a massive contamination of our seas, which is indirectly linked with diseases and poor health conditions among humans. When a human eats contaminated seafood, he poses high risk of developing diseases like hepatitis. Poor drinking water can also lead to cholera outbreaks and other such diseases in the related geographical areas.
  • Because microbeads are too small in size, normal water filtration systems are not able to trap them. They escape water treatment and filtration processes and end up drawn in rivers, drains and other water bodies. When microbeads enter the water system, they become toxic carriers with eco-toxicological consequences. Their toxicity becomes 1000 times more than the water in the water body. When humans consume this water, they get a variety of water-borne diseases, like cholera, tuberculosis, diarrhea etc. Over the last few years, the number of human deaths due to cholera has increased significantly.
  • When microbeads enter the water bodies, they absorb toxic chemicals in them, including petrol, PAHs, engine oil, pesticides, PCBs, industrial sewage etc. As a result, marine animals ingest these particles and choke to death. When humans directly or indirectly ingest these microbeads through fish and sea food, they also undergo significant adverse effects on their neurotic and endocrine systems. People may suffer from rashes and stomach aches, and excess nitrogen may also lead to serious risks to the human infants. Water bodies have significantly increased nitrogen and phosphorus content over the last few years.

For more details, read How Does Water Pollution Affect The Environment.

What’s the solution?

Netherlands was the first nation to announce the banning of microbeads. United States have launched the ‘Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015’ to stop the manufacturing and usage of microbeads. Other countries like UK, Canada and Australia are also considering banning of microbeads usage. Unfortunately, there is no rule for the prohibition of microbeads till date. But soon, they should be phased out and replaced with eco-friendly substances. Using a cosmetic product should not harm the environment in any way. It does not feel good to use a plastic filled product on your body, especially when there are natural alternatives available for them.However if you do use a product with microbeads, you can learn how to dispose of them.

Salt, sugar, ground almonds, oatmeal and other such things can work as excellent natural exfoliating agents for human skin. By the time microbeads do not get banned completely, it is up to the users to stop purchasing any products that contain them.

How Microbeads Affect Humans - What’s the solution?

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Microbeads Affect Humans, we recommend you visit our Healthy living category.

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How Microbeads Affect Humans