Microbeads are manufactured solid plastic particles of less than one millimeter in their largest dimension. They are most frequently made of polyethylene but can be of other petrochemical plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene. They are used in exfoliating personal care products, toothpastes and in biomedical and health-science research.
Microbeads can cause plastic particle water pollution and pose an environmental hazard for aquatic animals in freshwater and ocean water. In the US, the Microbead-Free Waters Act 2015 phases out microbeads in rinse off cosmetics by July 2017.
- 1 Types
- 2 Use
- 3 Environmental effects
- 4 Banning production and sale in cosmetics
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Microbeads are manufactured solid plastic particles of less than one millimeter in their largest dimension, and commercially available in particle sizes from 10 micrometres (0.00039 in) to 1 millimetre (0.039 in). Low melting temperature and fast phase transitions make them especially suitable for creating porous structures in ceramics and other materials. They are most frequently made of polyethylene or other petrochemical plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene.
Microbeads are added as an exfoliating agent to cosmetics and personal care products, such as soap, facial scrub and toothpastes. They may be added to over-the-counter drugs. In biomedical and health science research microbeads are used in microscopy techniques, fluid visualization, fluid flow analysis, and process troubleshooting.
Sphericity and particle size uniformity create a ball-bearing effect in creams and lotions, resulting in a silky texture and spreadability. Smoothness and roundness can provide lubrication. Colored microspheres add visual appeal to cosmetic products.
Microbeads are washed down the drain, can pass unfiltered through sewage treatment plants and make their way into rivers and canals, resulting in plastic particle water pollution. A team of researchers from Uppsala University published a subsequently retracted study (for methodological reasons) which stated that one of the various animals affected by microbeads was perch, a freshwater fish. When born into polluted environments containing high quantities of polystyrene particles they chose to eat these microbeads instead of real food like zooplankton. Plastic-eating perch demonstrated negative behavioral effects; for example, they ignored the smell of predators which left them vulnerable. The beads can absorb and concentrate pollutants like pesticides and polycyclic hydrocarbons. Microbeads have been found to pollute the Great Lakes in high concentrations, particularly Lake Erie. A study from the State University of New York, found anywhere from 1,500 to 1.1 million microbeads per square mile on the surface of the Great Lakes.
One study suggested that environmentally relevant levels of polyethylene microbeads had no impact on larvae. Some wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the U.S. and Europe can remove microbeads with an efficiency of greater than 98 percent, others may not. As such, other sources of microplastic pollution (e.g. microfibers/fibers and car tires) are more likely to be associated with environmental hazards.
A variety of wildlife, from small fish, amphibians and turtles to birds and larger mammals, mistake microbeads for their food source. This ingestion of plastics introduces the potential for toxicity not only to these animals but to other species higher in the food chain. Harmful chemicals thus transferred can include hydrophobic pollutants that collect on the surface of the water such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Banning production and sale in cosmetics
In 2012, the North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation launched an app that allows Dutch consumers to check whether personal care products contain microbeads. In the summer of 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme and UK based NGO Fauna and Flora International joined the partnership to further develop the app for international audiences. The app has enjoyed success, convincing a number of large multinationals to stop using microbeads, and is available in seven languages. There are many natural and biodegradable alternatives to microbeads that have no environmental impact when washed down the drain, as they will either decompose or get filtered out before being released into the natural environment. Some examples to use as natural exfoliates include ground up almonds, oatmeal, seasalt and coconut husks. Burt’s Bees and St. Ives use apricot pits and cocoa husks in their products instead of microbeads to reduce their negative environmental impact.
Due to the increase in bans of microbeads in the USA, many cosmetic companies are also phasing out microbeads from their production lines. L’Oreal is planning to phase out polyethylene microbeads in the exfoliates, cleansers and shower gels from their products by 2017. Johnson and Johnson, who have already started to phase out microbeads at the end of 2015, will by 2017 not be producing any polyethylene microbeads in their products. Lastly, Crest phased out microbead plastics in its toothpastes by February 2016. The global phase out should be completed by the end of 2017.
On May 18, 2015, Canada took its first steps toward banning microbeads when a Member of Parliament from Toronto, John McKay, introduced Bill C-680, which would ban the sale of microbeads. The first Canadian province to take action against microbeads was Ontario, where Maire-France Lalonde, a Member of the Provincial Parliament introduced Microbead Elimination and Monitoring Act. This bill enforced the ban of manufacturing microbeads in cosmetics, facial scrubs or washes, and similar products. The bill also proposed that there would be yearly samples taken from the Canadian Great Lakes, which would be analyzed for traces of microbeads.
Pointe-Claire mayor, Morris Trudeau and members of the City Council requested its residents to sign a petition asking governments of Canada and Quebec to ban “the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic and cleansing products.” Trudeau suggested that if Quebec bans microbeads, manufactures will be encouraged to stop producing them in their products. Megan Leslie, Halifax Member of Parliament presented a motion against microbeads in the House of Commons, which got “unanimous support” and is hoping for them to be listed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as a toxin.
On June 29, 2016, the Federal Government of Canada added microbeads in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act under Schedule 1 as a toxic substance. The import or manufacture of toiletries containing microbeads was banned on 1 January 2018 and sales were banned from 1 July 2018. Microbeads in natural health products and non-prescription drugs will also be banned in 2019.
India's microbead ban will enter force in 2020.
On 23 November 2016, Minister Simon Coveney T.D. Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (the Minister with policy responsibility for marine environmental protection) informed the Seanad, the upper house of the Irish legislature, that he intends to notify the EU Commission of Ireland's intention to introduce legislation to ban microbeads in certain personal care products, detergents and scouring agents in 2017. This is due to the potential harm they may present to riverine, estuarine and marine environments. It is his intention to enact and commence this legislation in 2017. On 25 of November 2016, he wrote to EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella to advise him that Ireland will be formally notifying the EU of its intention to ban sale or manufacture of certain products containing microbeads. Ireland will continue to advocate for a ban throughout the EU.
The Netherlands was the first country to announce its intent to be free of microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2016. State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment Mansveld has said she is pleased with the progress made by the members of the Nederlandse Cosmetica Vereniging (NCV), the Dutch trade organisation for producers and importers of cosmetics, who have ceased using microbeads or are working towards removing microbeads from their product. By 2017 80% of them should have completed the transition to a microbead-free product line.[according to whom?] Among the NCV's members are large multinationals such as Unilever, L'Oréal, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, and Johnson & Johnson.
On December 4, 2017, the New Zealand government announced that it would ban the production and sale of microbeads in the country. New Zealand banned the import, manufacture and sale of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics on 7 June 2018.
Sweden has implemented a ban on the import and manufacture of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics on 1 July 2018, which will be followed by a sales ban in January 2019.
Taiwan implemented a ban on the import and manufacture of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics on 1 January 2018, which was followed by a sales ban on 1 July 2018.
The British government has banned the production of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics and cleaning products in England. The ban on production took effect on 9 January 2018  and was followed by a sales ban on 19 June 2018. Scotland introduced its own manufacture and sales ban on the same day and Wales introduced its on 30 June 2018. Northern Ireland has announced that it will introduce a full ban in September 2018.
At the federal level the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 prohibits the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017. Representative Frank Pallone proposed the bill in 2014 (H.R. 4895, reintroduced in 2015 as H.R. 1321). On December 7, 2015, his proposal was narrowed by amendment to rinse-off cosmetics, and passed unanimously by the House. The American Chemistry Council and other industry groups supported the final bill, which the Senate passed on December 18, 2015, and the president signed on December 28, 2015.
Illinois became the first U.S. state to enact legislation banning the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads; the two-part ban goes into effect in 2018 and 2019. The Personal Care Products Council, a trade group for the cosmetics industry, came out in support of the Illinois bill. Other states have followed.
|State/Territory||Date Enacted||Effective date||Scope|
|California||October 8, 2015||January 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics that contain more than 1 ppm of microbeads. Does not allow biodegradable microbeads.|
|Colorado||March 26, 2015||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads.|
|Connecticut||June 30, 2015||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads.|
|Illinois||8 June 2014||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads. Excludes prescription drugs.|
|Indiana||April 15, 2015||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads.|
|Maine||March 2015||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads.|
|Maryland||May 12, 2015||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads.|
|New Jersey||March 2015||Jan. 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads.|
|Wisconsin||July 1, 2015||January 1, 2018 (manufacture of personal care products) – Jan. 1, 2020 (sale of over-the-counter drugs)||Restricted to rinse-off cosmetics. Allows biodegradable microbeads. Excludes prescription drugs.|
In 2014, legislation was voted on but failed to pass in New York.
In 2015, Erie County, New York passed the first local ban in the state of New York. It bans the sale and distribution of all plastic microbeads (including biodegradable ones) including from personal care products. As of September 2015[update], its prohibition on sales is stronger than any other law in the country. It was enacted on August 12, 2015 and should take effect in February, 2016. This appears to be the first ban to go into effect in the country. In November 2015 four other NY counties followed suit.
- Expandable microsphere
- Glass microsphere
- Plastic particle water pollution
- Arthur et al. (eds.). 2009. Proceedings of the International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects, and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Technical Memorandum. NOS-OR&R-30
- "Microbeads, Meal kits, You and Yours - BBC Radio 4". BBC.
- "H.R.1321 - Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015". Congress.gov. Congress.gov. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
- Imam, Jareen (19 September 2015). "8 trillion microbeads pollute U.S. aquatic habitats daily". CNN. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- "Microbeads". 5 Gyres. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
- "Microbeads – A Science Summary". Environment Canada. July 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
- Danny Lewis (10 December 2015). "Five Things to Know About Congress' Vote to Ban Microbeads". Smithsonian magazine. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
- "Opaque Polyethylene Microspheres for Coatings Applications".
- Kieler, Ashlee (2015-12-29). "Say Goodbye To Microbeads: President Signs Act To Ban Microscopic Plastic Particles". Consumerist. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
- Solid Polyethylene Microspheres for effects in color cosmetics Archived 2012-03-04 at the Wayback Machine. Cosmetics and Toiletries.com, April 2010
- Fendall, L.S.; Sewell, M.A. (2009). "Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: microplastics in facial cleansers". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 58 (8): 1225–1228. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.04.025.
- Berg, Jeremy (3 May 2017). "Editorial Retraction". Science: aan5763. Bibcode:2017Sci...356..812B. doi:10.1126/science.aan5763. PMID 28469005 – via science.sciencemag.org.
- "Fish Freaking LOVE To Eat Plastic, And That's A Problem". The Huffington Post. 2016-06-03. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
- Johnston, Christopher (June 25, 2013). "Personal Grooming Products May Be Harming Great Lakes Marine Life". Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Plastic microbeads pile up into problems for the Great Lakes". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
- Kaposi, Katrina L.; Mos, Benjamin; Kelaher, Brendan P.; Dworjanyn, Symon A. (2014-01-01). "Ingestion of microplastic has limited impact on a marine larva". Environmental Science & Technology. 48 (3): 1638–1645. Bibcode:2014EnST...48.1638K. doi:10.1021/es404295e. ISSN 1520-5851. PMID 24341789.
- Murphy, Fionn; Ewins, Ciaran; Carbonnier, Frederic; Quinn, Brian (2016-06-07). "Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) as a Source of Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment". Environmental Science & Technology. 50 (11): 5800–5808. Bibcode:2016EnST...50.5800M. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b05416. ISSN 0013-936X.
- Carr, Steve A.; Liu, Jin; Tesoro, Arnold G. (2016-03-15). "Transport and fate of microplastic particles in wastewater treatment plants". Water Research. 91: 174–182. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2016.01.002.
- (PDF) https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/Microbeads_Report_5_14_14.pdf. Retrieved December 1, 2016. Missing or empty
- "In short - Beat the Microbead". Beat the Microbead. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
- "Results - Beat the Microbead". Beat the Microbead. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
- "Micro plastics in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Region" (PDF). June 4, 2015.
- "Facial scrubs polluting Great Lakes with plastic". July 31, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2016 – via CBC News.
- Xanthos, D., & Walker, T. R. (2017). International policies to reduce plastic marine pollution from single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads): a review. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 118(1-2), 17-26.
- "L'oread commits to phase out all polyethylene microbeads from its scrubs by 2017". L'Oreal. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Microbeads". Our Safety & Care Commitment. Johnson and Johnson. December 10, 2016. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Frequently Asked Questions About Microbeads". Crest. August 23, 2014. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Bill C-680". House of Commons of Canada. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- Lalonde, Maire-France. "Bill 75, Microbead Elimination and Monitoring Act, 2015". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Pointe-Claire asks for a ban on plastic microbeads". City of Pointe-Claire. September 11, 2015. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- Windsor, Hillary (April 16, 2015). "Megan Leslie wants a ban on microbeads". Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Statement by Environmental Defence's Maggie MacDonald on federal government's decision on microbeads - Environmental Defence". 29 June 2016.
- "Canada Has Officially Banned Toiletries That Contain Plastic Microbeads". Retrieved 10 January 2018.
- "Canadian government moves to ban plastic microbeads in toiletries by July 2018". 4 November 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2018 – via Toronto Star.
- Pettipas, S., Bernier, M., & Walker, T. R. (2016). A Canadian policy framework to mitigate plastic marine pollution. Marine Policy, 68, 117-122.
- "Banning microbeads in cosmetics in France by 2018 - EcoMundo". www.ecomundo.eu. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- "France to ban microplastics in some cosmetics products". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- "World Environment Day: Despite Being Banned in Cosmetics, Microplastics Still Clog India's Store Shelves and Waters". Retrieved 20 June 2018.
- Kiernan, Eddie (2016-11-23). "Minister Coveney addresses the Green Party's Private Members Bill on Microbeads". Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
- "Expert warns of microbeads entering the food chain". RTE. 11 January 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
- "Italy to ban microplastics used in rinse-off cosmetics products". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- "Ban on microbeads in UK, Italy and New Zealand - Beat the Microbead". www.beatthemicrobead.org. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- "Beat the Microbead: Nederland spreekt zich uit". Plastic Soup Foundation. October 29, 2014.
- "Appreciatie RIVM rapport en stand van zaken microplastics en geneesmiddelen". Rijksoverheid. October 28, 2014.
- "Government bans production and sale of all microbeads". Stuff.co.nz. December 4, 2017.
- "Plastic microbeads ban - Ministry for the Environment". www.mfe.govt.nz. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "Sweden adopts microbeads ban in rinse-off cosmetics". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- "Taipei brings forward microbeads ban". AsiaHub. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
- "The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations 2017". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- "Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK". The Guardian. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
- "Face scrubs and toothpastes hit as ban on microbeads begins". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- "World leading microbeads ban comes into force". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- "Scotland announces microbeads ban". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
- "Wales to ban microbeads from June". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- "Northern Ireland to ban microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
- "Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 1321, S. 2425". The White House. 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-29.
- Kari, Embree (2015-12-08). "U.S. House passes legislation to ban plastic microbeads". Plastics Today. Retrieved 2015-12-10.
- "H.R.1321 - To amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the manufacture and introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads." Congress.gov. Congress.gov. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
- "Governor Quinn Signs Bill to Ban Microbeads, Protect Illinois Waterways". Illinois Government News Network. June 8, 2014.
- Johnson, Jim (May 9, 2014). "Momentum building for plastic microbead bans". Plastics News. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- Paul Rogers (9 October 2015) Plastic microbeads and state coal investments banned as Gov. Jerry Brown signs new laws East Bay Times.
- Phil Willon California lawmakers approve ban on plastic microbeads LA Times, 8 September 2015
- Mason, Melanie (October 8, 2015). "Products with plastic microbeads to be banned under new California law". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
- California Lawmakers Approve Ban On Plastic Microbeads In Cosmetics Lydia O'Connor, The Huffington Post,8 September 2015
- "HOUSE BILL 15-1144" (PDF). State of Colorado. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "Bill No. 1502". State of Connecticut. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "Governor Quinn Signs Bill to Ban Microbeads, Protect Illinois Waterways". State of Illinois. June 8, 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "Microbead-free waters". Illinois General Assembly. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "HOUSE ENROLLED ACT No. 1185". State of Indiana. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "House Bill 216" (PDF). State of Maryland. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- Johnson, Brent. "Bill to ban microbeads in N.J. heads to Christie's desk". NJ Advance media for NJ.com. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- Sergio Bichao, (March 23, 2015). "Products with microbeads will disappear from N.J. stores thanks to new ban". Mycentarlnewjersey.com. Gannett. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
- "ASSEMBLY, No. 3083". State of New Jersey. 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "CHAPTER 28". New Jersey Legislature. New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
- O'Brien, Brendan (July 1, 2015). "Wisconsin Governor Walker signs bill banning microbeads". Reuters. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- Abrams, Rachel (May 22, 2015). "Fighting Pollution From Microbeads Used in Soaps and Creams". New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
- "Local Law #3, 2015" (PDF). Erie County. 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- Warner, Gene (11 August 2015). "Consumers, companies prepare for Erie County microbead ban". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Law signed to ban microbeads in Erie County". WGRZ.com. August 12, 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Microbeads to no longer be sold in Albany Co". News 10. November 9, 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.