In the last 10 years, microbeads have gone from an everyday object in a lot of cosmetics and personal care products to something that’s attracting a lot of regulatory attention and energy on a planetary scale.
On Thursday, a government task force at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report that recommends a ban on the sale of microbeads in U.S. products, a category that includes everything from facial scrubs and toothpaste to body scrubs and facial scrubs.
In 2015, the U.S. banned the use of microbeads in cosmetics in federal facilities, like federal water treatment plants. In the wake of the report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would release a rule to keep them out of waterways. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday said it would issue a voluntary requirement that cosmetic companies remove microbeads from their products within 18 months.
This is not the first time the FDA has said it wants to stop microbeads from being added to plastics. In 2000, then-FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach announced plans to limit the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. A 1994 rule prohibited the manufacturing of microbeads in sewage products, and in 2007, the FDA conducted a national awareness campaign on microbeads, warning the public about the toxic effects of microbeads.
If you’re concerned about what you’re putting in your body, there’s still a lot of work to be done. The FDA, in its report, said there was still reason to be concerned about the use of microbeads in the personal care industry, especially in skin-care products.
The agency also said it doesn’t think the FDA itself should set a hard deadline for industry to withdraw microbeads from their products. In other words, the FDA isn’t ready to give up on microbeads yet.
This isn’t the first time the industry has been accused of quietly killing their own products. Noxzema was once caught mixing toxic chemicals like nickel and manganese in their beauty products. Avon said in 1997 that it found toxic ingredients in its products.
You can’t fault consumers for their lack of watchdogism. Even some of the most trusted brands like Dove, Avon and Dove Body Wash, have come under fire for their preservatives, which have been found to have serious risks.
Still, there’s no reason to wait for action. Researchers have found traces of harmful chemicals in your body. There are a lot of unsavory ingredients that are found in both beauty products and food. We’ve all played with the dyes in our skin lotions, which have been linked to obesity and reproductive issues, but there’s nothing natural about those ingredients.
Once you get your booster shot, let your voice be heard. You can use social media and take other measures to ensure that microbeads and their poisonous byproducts don’t end up in our waterways.