Earlier this month, Illinois became the first state to ban microbeads, used in many exfoliating soaps, body washes, shaving creams, toothpastes and other personal hygiene products.
While seemingly harmless, these little beads are causing a significant threat to the environment, especially to our precious water supply.
Synthetic microbeads are usually made of plastic, which does not biodegrade. Some scrubs, cleansers and other personal products contain hundreds of thousands of these little beads. When they are washed down the drain, they pass through water filtration systems intact due to their tiny size, and eventually end up in lakes, rivers and streams.
Many of the Great Lakes, as well as the Los Angeles River and several waterways in New York City, have microbeads in their water when tested. The plastic materials that the beads are composed of can absorb other environmental toxins, according to experts. The beads may then be eaten by fish, make their way up the food chain, and endanger the health of fish, other wildlife and humans alike.
Illinois’ new law requires that no new products with microbeads are to be manufactured after the end of 2017. Existing products with microbeads can no longer be sold after 2018. In 2019, companies will not be able to sell over-the-counter medications containing microbeads anymore (yes, microbeads are used in these, as well).
Governor Pat Quinn, who signed the bill on June 8, states, “banning microbeads will help ensure clean waters across Illinois and set an example for our nation to follow. Lake Michigan and the many rivers and lakes across our state are among our most important natural resources. We must do everything necessary to safeguard them.”
Illinois isn’t the only state taking action on microbeads. New York, Ohio, California and Minnesota also have microbead bans in various stages of consideration. If the legislation is passed in New York, the state hopes to have the beads phased out sooner than Illinois, by 2016. Some companies are independently taking action, as well. In 2013, Unilever, the manufacturer of Dove products, announced that they will phase out microbead use in their products worldwide by 2015.
So, instead of harmful, synthetic microbeads, how are we to enjoy an exfoliating scrub or body wash? Luckily, these are very easy to make at home, using natural exfoliants. Check out our recipes for homemade soaps, paying special attention to the last recipe, “Oatmeal Honey Soap,” which includes oatmeal, a natural exfoliant. To make a nourishing face and body scrub, simply combine raw honey with organic coconut crystals or ground oatmeal.
For a super-easy DIY liquid soap/body wash solution, simply fill an empty pump bottle with pure liquid castille soap, and add a teaspoon of brewed coffee grounds, finely ground oatmeal (coarser if you want an intense scrub) or poppy seeds. If they settle to the bottom, shake gently once or twice before use and you have the perfect exfoliant. You won’t miss the microbeads at all.
-The Alternative Daily