Plastic beads proudly advertised in a men’s facial scrub product. Plastic micro-beads are found in many common toothpastes, body washes and facial cleansers, however the plastics could be easily replaced with biodegradable products such as nutshells or grape seeds.
Photo Credit: plasticfreeseas.org

Canada declares plastic microbeads as ‘toxic’ substance

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An online notice this month from the federal government has declared plastic microbeads as being a toxic substance.

The report reads in part: ” plastic microbeads have shown adverse effects in aquatic organisms. In addition, plastic microbeads may reside in the environment for a long time and they are continuously released to the environment resulting in long-term adverse effects on biological diversity and in the ecosystem”.

This body wash contains microbeads, which have replaced more natural exfoliants such as oatmeal and crushed nut shells. The microscopic beads are also found in some toothpastes
This body wash contains microbeads, which have replaced more natural exfoliants such as oatmeal and crushed nut shells. The microscopic beads are also found in some toothpastes. Canada just declared plastic microbeads as a toxic substance © ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE/NDP

The beads of 5mm or less in diameter are often are used as abrasives in cosmetics products like facial and body scrubs, and even in some toothpastes. There has been concern that the beads are now found in lakes, and oceans around the world in increasing amounts.
CBC News

The declaration comes after a vote last year in Parliament to remove the beads as harmful to the environment and aquatic life and a proposal to ban the manufacture and imports of products containing microbeads by the end of 2017.  The proposal to ban the tiny plastic particles was made by the Conservative government in August prior to a general election which was later won by the Liberal Party.

Microbeads in scale found in Lake Erie Microplastic particles also include polyester fibres released during typical household clothes washing
Microbeads of 1mm or less found in Lake Erie. Microplastic particles also include polyester fibres released during typical household clothes washing © As It Happens- CBC

The declaration this month under the Environmental Protection Act gives the current government the option to control or ban their use.

However, the notice indicates that already five of the 14 companies comprising the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Frangrance Association, have already stopped using microbeads, and the others will eliminate microbeads in their products from 2018 to 2020.

Microbeads shown in scale against a typical one-cent coin
Microbeads and other tiny plastic particles shown in scale against a typical one-cent coin © 5Gyres Institute

In 2014, about 100 tonnes of plastic microbeads in exfoliants and cleansers were imported into Canada. Some 10,000kg more were used in manufacture of personal care products domestically.

Additional information-sources

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One comment on “Canada declares plastic microbeads as ‘toxic’ substance
  1. Avatar Megreek says:

    Hail Canada. That takes backbone. I grew up with an image of Canada as clean, honest, non-violent, refuge to former U.S. slaves, fair to Native peoples and egalitarian’ despite their cozier relationship to Mother England. I’m a Detroiter. We rec’d the CBC signal and I watched loads of their television programming. Rumor had it that goods left on their buses would still be there the next day. This move reminds me of the mythic quality of the Canada I once believed in. Bravo, Canada.