Being a sucker for all things shiny, I just loved those multicolor sparkly toothpastes. Sucker is right as little did I know that part of what makes them so pretty are tiny plastic microbeads. The label will have either polyethylene or polypropylene as an ingredient. That is plastic. That is mircobeads.
These microbeads are in all kinds of things, usually stuff you put on your face. They are in facial scrubs, one of which I used to love until I started using cheaper things. I recall when that was the "new" thing oh, maybe 15 or 20 years ago. And look what fifteen years of exfoliating and teeth whitening has done to our lakes and oceans:
|Check the label before you buy!|
All that smooth, clean skin has caused some big problems in the aquatic food chain. Me, I don't want the Great Lakes to become a plastic soup. I feel ashamed now that I ever used those things. I've been recycling for 30 years and bringing my own bags to the grocery for ages. But I didn't make the connection of tiny plastic beads going down the drain and into our waterways. I am only relieved that I stopped using those facial brands some years ago, opting for the more "organic" BHA free brands. Now, I'm thinking plain old soap with very few ingredients will do just fine.
This is serious stuff. I urge all readers to check labels on their products. We don't need microbeads on our face or our toothbrush. A washcloth can do just as good a job exfoliating. As for toothpaste, at least make sure your kids toothpaste doesn't contain the stuff. Get the older formulations and brush longer.
Yes, yes, the FDA says the microbeads are safe. Big deal. My doctor also tells me not to injest any small seeds because of intestinal concerns (anyone my age should not be ingesting small beads). And you know, it's toothpaste--there is no way we aren't ingesting a few of them. So if endangering our lakes and rivers isn't enough of a reason, then think of what it could do if it got lodged in your intestine.
Fortunately, not all toothpastes have microbeads. You can save money by buying the cheaper older formulations of the same national brands. And then there is good old fashioned baking soda. But that is a lifestyle choice. I have yet to try one of those "make your own toothpaste" recipes, but maybe it's about time I did.
I'm planning to write polite letters to companies using microbeads and ask them to phase them out of their formulation. There is also a petition to sign on 5gyres.org which I've already signed.
But I'm still stuck with three tubes of shiny toothpaste that I will not use. Yes, there is the food pantry, but is it okay to foist my shopping mistake on someone else? What if they are older and have been told by their doctor not to eat tiny seeds? What if they are children? And knowing what it could do to the life in our lakes streams and oceans, how can I let this tube be opened and released into the environment?
I feel like I'm stuck with three tubes of Toxic Waste.