Microbeads! Really?

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Microbeads in household products! What else are we pouring down the drain?

We were listening to CBC Radio a little while ago and we were  flabbergasted to hear that certain personal cleaning products contained microbeads.  Microbeads are little pieces of plastic that are intended to assist in exfoliation (taking off the outer layer of dead facial skin) in products such as soaps and face scrubs.  It is not the intention of this blog entry to investigate the merits of exfoliation but valuable or not, using plastic to do it seems to be a really foolish idea.  Particularly when these products are being produced in massive quantities and are being sold to, and used by, most of the households in the western world.

A quick search lead us to a list of products containing microbeads.  Apparently, there are 4 pages of products sold in North America, by many different suppliers, that contain microbeads. Have a look.


Microbeads have been found to cause all kinds of problems in the environment.  They are too small to be captured by municipal waste treatment systems and they end up polluting rivers and lakes and eventually the ocean. Once in the environment they breakdown very slowly and are absorbed by many species including animals at the bottom of the food chain that are, in turn, eaten by other animals, including us.  We, at Vote Canada, don’t know about you, but we know that we don’t want to eat plastic fish.

 Wikipedia has a good article on microbeads.

Now it seems to us that putting plastic bits in products that go down the drain is a really bad idea.  So bad it prompted us to wonder what else is being sold to us that harms the environment unnecessarily. It also made us wonder if these types of products are regulated and if so by whom, and what were they (the regulators) thinking when they allowed them to be made and sold.

A quick search on the internet reveals other controversial things that are being sold to us through household/consumer goods.  One particularly nasty chemical is Triclosan which is included in anti-bacterial soaps. This chemical has been shown to persist in the environment for rather a long time and once there, it continues to kill bacteria, even at low concentrations, disrupting the bacterial make-up of any environment in which it is present. The use of chemicals like Triclosan have also been connected to the rapidly deteriorating effectiveness of antibiotics. The crazy thing about this is that these products don’t kill viruses (which cause the colds/flu most people worry about) and soap works just as well removing bacteria.  Most of which, by the way are beneficial.

Apparently, the ingredients in household cleaning products are regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) by Environment Canada and Health Canada.  To be fair, Environment Canada says they are studying the issue of microbeads but why were they approved, or not thought to merit concern, in the first place.

So to help out Health Canada and Environment Canada and to tidy up their thinking we, at Vote Canada, would like to propose a simple to new rule for Health Canada and Environment Canada to enforce.  Hold your breath, here it is:

“Every product that is sold to consumers that goes down the drain (when used as intended) should be biodegradable within a typical household septic tank and field system.”

So the question to be answered within the Ballot Box is:  I agree with the above statement and this rule (or similar) should be adopted by Health Canada and Environment Canada – Yes or No?

This article/blog entry is a work in progress so please feel free to provide input and or revisit.

Please go to  the “Vote on this Question” box  in the upper right hand column to vote.

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