Microbeads could be harming the environment, scientists say

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by CBSNEWS

khou.com

Posted on May 6, 2014 at 5:52 PM

A popular ingredient in beauty products could be creating a new environmental threat. The potentially dangerous contaminants are known as "microbeads," and are no bigger than a grain of salt. The tiny plastics are common in face and body washes.

Scientist Marcus Eriksen says the beads soak up pesticides and chemicals after they are washed down the drain.

"By the time the plastic gets downstream towards the ocean, they become these toxic pills," he said. "Even a small microbead, as it tumbles down stream, is picking up all kinds of industrial chemicals."

Eriksen is the executive director of the environmental advocacy group, 5 Gyres, and says up to 300,000 microbeads can be found in one tube of face scrub. Eriksen believes many water treatment plants cannot filter out the tiny plastics, allowing them to flow into the ocean or waterways,where they can be mistaken for food.

"Big fish eat little fish, eventually the fish is on your dinner plate," Eriksen said. "And you're eating that fish, along with all the toxins it consumed along the way."

The Environmental Protection Agency is looking into potential dangers after Eriksen and his team uncovered high concentrations of microbeads in the Great Lakes.

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