Health Care Products Threaten Great Lakes

Posted at 11:31 PM, Jun 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-16 09:54:24-04

ALLENDALE, Mich. (June 16, 2014) — Experts are finding that components of a common health care product in the Great Lakes and nearby bodies of water.

While so-called ‘microbeads’ used in liquid soaps and face exfoliants do wonders for unclogging your pores, they’re doing the opposite for streams, rivers and lakes. Once  the small, lightweight microbeads are rinsed down the drain, they sneak through the water treatment plants and end up in natural bodies of water.

Richard Rediske, professor of water resources at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, says it’s an issue that needs to be investigated. “It builds up over time, and it’s just like any of the hazardous chemicals that have been released. They start small, and then everybody starts using them over a number of years the levels go up.”

In fact, a study done by a chemistry professor in New York found a concentration of more than one million beads in just one square kilometer of water in Lake Ontario.

This month, lawmakers in Illinois passed a bill that would ban the manufacture of the plastic-filled products by 2018. The state hopes to ban sales by the end of 2019.

“They can get into the food chain and carry chemicals into the food chain,” Rideske said. “It’s the small particles that can be consumed by fish that are concerning everybody.”

What’s worse, the beads can contain flame retardants and may also soak up other various chemicals, such as pesticides.

It’s estimated that billions of microbeads are being found in several bodies of water.

Further studies, including one at the University of Michigan, are being done to determine exactly how many beads are turning up in the water and whether something should be done on a national level to block manufacturers from putting them in their products.