UN Calls For Microbead Ban | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 24 | p. 22 | Concentrates
Issue Date: June 15, 2015

UN Calls For Microbead Ban

Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: plastic, pollution, water pollution, Great Lakes, personal care products, cosmetics
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The UN is advising against replacing polyethylene microbeads in personal care products with polylactic acid polymer spheres.
Credit: Instagram/5 Gyres Institute
Plastic nurdles by the 100s on the shores of Lake Erie.
 
The UN is advising against replacing polyethylene microbeads in personal care products with polylactic acid polymer spheres.
Credit: Instagram/5 Gyres Institute

A United Nations agency is calling for personal product and cosmetic makers to globally phase out the plastic microbeads used in some toothpastes, shower gels, deodorants, eye shadows, nail polishes, and other items. When washed off people’s bodies and down drains, the tiny spheres, which are less than 1 mm in diameter and sometimes nanometer-sized, aren’t removed by sewage treatment plants and end up in oceans or lakes, the UN Environment Programme points out in a report. It cites concerns that the tiny plastic spheres can facilitate the movement of toxic pollutants from oceans and other water bodies to fish that people eat. These microplastics, which can take centuries to break down, can also harm aquatic animals who mistake the tiny particles for food. The report, issued last week, also warns against the use of beads made of biodegradable polylactic acid plastic as a substitute for widely used polyethylene microspheres. Biobased polylactic acid polymers, it says, “only degrade when subjected to high temperatures in industrial settings.”

 
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