Home > Lifestyle > EnviroHealth > Green tips Updated 26 July 2013 Teeny tiny scary plastics Are you putting microplastics in the ocean? Read your product labels. 0 Pin It Beat the Micro Bead Campaign ~ Related Go toxin and cruelty free Pesky polystyrene Start A Health24 blog » Follow Health24 on Facebook » Test Are you envirohealth savvy? » Ask EnviroHealth Expert » Sirens of the Lambs Bugs in your bed Many personal care products like facial cleansers and body scrubs contain tiny plastic beads. They're also found in other products like some shampoos, lip-gloss and toothpaste. These "microbeads", only a few millimeters in diameter, are used as exfoliators and cleansers; in some products even tinier beads are used to improve the flow and silkiness of creams and lotions. The microplastic "soup" in our oceansMicrobeads may feel nice and seem innocuous, but there's been concern for some time now that they can end up in the ocean: their small size allows them to get past filtering systems when they're washed down our drains. In the sea they contribute to the growing amount of microplastics - plastic fragments under about 5mm from various sources (including artificial clothes fibres from our washing machines), and from larger pieces that get broken down by sunlight and wave action.Impact on marine lifeMicrobeads and other microplastics have a collective large surface area (on account of being lots of tiny bits of plastic instead of one big piece), which makes them good at attaching to and absorbing other pollutant chemicals, thus making them even more toxic than they were in the first place. Then they get ingested by marine organisms, both particle feeders who can't distinguish them from proper nutrient particles, and bigger creatures (fish, turtles, gulls, seals) who eat smaller ones who've already swallowed the microplastics. Animals that ingest microplastics risk being deprived of nutrients, taking in toxins, and developing blockages in their digestive tracts. Humans may potentially also be affected by this kind of pollution if they eat contaminated seafood.Cosmetics companies respondSome cosmetics companies are starting to phase out microbeads; Unilever has lead the way by committing to doing so by 2015, and others (The Body Shop, Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble) will be following suit.Meanwhile, avoid products that list plastics (polyethylene polypropylene, polyethylene terephlatate or polymethyl methacrylate) as ingredients and, if they do advertise the fact that they contain microbeads, make sure these are made from alternative biodegradable materials - finely crushed nut shells are one example. - Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor@OliviaRoseInnesInfo sources:North Sea FoundationPlastic Soup FoundationUnliver position statement on microbeads More in Lifestyle Plastic protection More: EnviroHealthGreen tips advertisement Get a quote Bestmed - offering you quality healthcare and freedom of choice Momentum - save up to 35% on healthcare Medihelp - quality, affordable medical scheme cover advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 0 comments Add your comment Thank you, your comment has been submitted. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... From our sponsors Your retirement - a healthy mindset So many people, why so alone? You can still enjoy the sweet things in life Take the sugar test, it could save your life. Live healthier Child nutrition » Your child's nutrition Nutrition for schoolkids Diets for toddlers The parent's guide to food labels Making sense of food labels and matching them to the needs of family members can be a challenge. Here are some tips from dietician Megan Pentz-Kluyts. Financial wellness » Money disappointments Investment tips Financially freaked out? High debt may have negative health consequences A new study found that high financial debt is associated with higher blood pressure and poorer general and mental health in young adults.