Sep 18, 2015 10:16 AM EDT
Microbeads show up in a range of products, cleaning products in particular, and while they are barely noticeable they accumulate in massive amounts to pollute bodies of water.
Published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, a new study determined eight trillion plastic microbeads find their way into aquatic habitats on a daily basis. A great deal of focus is placed on limiting plastic pollutants in the water, but it is easy to never even think twice about microbeads.
According to The Washington Post, the new study's findings only represent a small fraction of the total microbeads being dumped into aquatic habitats. Some 800 trillion make their way into the water via sewage plant runoff.
"We're facing a plastic crisis and don't even know it," study co-author Stephanie Green, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, said in a press release. "Part of this problem can now start with brushing your teeth in the morning," she said. "Contaminants like these microbeads are not something our wastewater treatment plants were built to handle, and the overall amount of contamination is huge. The microbeads are very durable."
The researchers used their study to formally support a "ban on microbeads," a phrase that even appeared in the study's title.
"Microbeads are just one of many types of microplastic found in aquatic habitats and in the gut content of wildlife," study lead author Chelsea Rochman, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California - Davis, said in the release. "We've demonstrated in previous studies that microplastic of the same type, size and shape as many microbeads can transfer contaminants to animals and cause toxic effects," Rochman said. "We argue that the scientific evidence regarding microplastic supports legislation calling for a removal of plastic microbeads from personal care products."
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