Bunnies and Fishes and People, Oh My!

It’s bad enough that I cannot open a jar of face cream without wondering if baby bunnies were harmed in the product’s testing. Now I also have to worry about fish ingesting plastic microbeads that rinse off my face and on down the drain and eventually into the waterways. And while we’re at it, what about people eating the microbead-filled fish. Microbeads also absorb toxins. None of that can possibly be good, can it?

microbeads 1The issue of microbeads is in the news lately.  They’ve been added to face cleansing products and shampoos and the like. Now, I’m all for exfoliating dead skin cells, which is what the beads are supposed to do. But I can’t help wondering: Aren’t there other ingredients that could achieve the same thing? Yes there are, says 5 Gyres, an environmental organization conducting a campaign to encourage manufacturers of personal care products to replace microbeads with alternatives like crushed walnut husks and apricot kernels that degrade naturally.

Several manufacturers have agreed to start voluntarily phasing out the use of microbeads, and some states like New York have passed legislation banning their use. In California, such a bill has passed in the Assembly and is headed for the Senate. In the meantime, a smartphone app has been developed that enables consumers to scan products to see if they contain microbeads.

This is all well and good. But I can’t help wondering why it never occurred to manufacturers that microbeads in products designed to be washed down the drain was a bad idea. I imagine a conversation in a corporate office where the researchers are filling in the managers.

 “We have a wonderful new product for you to introduce. It contains microbeads.”

“Really? What’s a microbead”

“A revolutionary advance in body cleansing.”

“Oh, what’s it made of?”

“Plastic.”

220px-Nasa_blue_marbleAt this point was there no one in the room to suggest that the one thing the world’s waters did not need was more plastic? Why do we wait until a product is out in the marketplace before it occurs to anyone to question its desirability?

We seem in such a frantic rush to destroy our planet, the thing described in an Episcopal Church prayer as “this fragile earth, our island home.” It is disheartening.

[Photos: 5gyres.org, NASA]

4 comments on “Bunnies and Fishes and People, Oh My!

  1. Roger Keyser says:

    This is an environmental issue that I had not heard about elsewhere and I am glad to learn that early intervention may quickly phase out the use of microbeads in cosmetics.

  2. patnieder says:

    Yes, but I fear it won’t happen quickly. If you look, as I did, for images of product containers with the words “microbeads” on them, the numbers are huge — and that’s just English-language ones. All of the legislation being passed (today’s paper has news of Illinois joining the ranks) give manufacturers generous phase-in times. Better, if you want to be environmentally responsible, is to read the labels before you buy. But it’s a start.

  3. Lewis Dana says:

    Perhaps sandpaper applied sparingly would serve the same exfoliatory (leaf removing??!!!) purpose.

    Apply the cream, sandpaper it off.

    While not an organic fix for the problem: the sand originally came from antedeluvian waters (or perhaps deluvian ones) and can go right back. The paper support will disintegrate back into its natural wood fibers.

    Doing OK so far.

    But then, the glue holding the grains of sand to the paper might be plastic-based. Or, worse, require the killing of cows… or, worst: rabbits.

    Guess we’re back to square one.

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