Microbeads: why they were banned in the United Kingdom

In 2018, United Kingdom decided to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics and care products of our pets . This decision has surprised many consumers, partly due to the lack of knowledge about the composition of the products they use daily in their toilet.

In this post we will explain better what are the microbeads to help you understand why your ban is imminent in many other countries.

What are microbeads?

The microbeads , better known in Spanish as 'microspheres', are one of the most common types of microplastics . These tiny particles measure between 0.1 micrometers and 5 millimeters, and are used very often in the preparation of grooming and care products for dogs, cats, etc.

Due to its powerful abrasive effect, > microbeads are usually present in the toothpastes we use daily in oral hygiene. Depending on the product, microbeads can represent 10% of your composition.

However, these microplastics are also integrated into exfoliating products, liquid soaps or bar for pets, bath gels, makeup, sunscreen, among others. They can even be present in cleaning products designed for home and vehicle sanitation.

Why can microbeads be harmful?

microbeads can adversely affect both people and animals and the environment. According to a study developed by Napper & Thompson, a single application of a product containing microbeads can release around 90,000 microspheres.

But the data more worrisome is that conventional water treatment systems are not able to detect the presence of microbeads . Then, these microplastic particles return to the seas, which increases the contamination of aquatic ecosystems.

Why microbeads can be harmful

It is estimated that since 1950 about 8 billion metric tons of plastic were produced by human activities ; around 6,000 million tons of garbage that, in its great majority, have fallen to the oceans.

The microbeads have spread around the world with amazing and worrying speed. To give you an idea, alone in the Arctic Ocean there are already some 300 000 million particles of microplastics .

These particles are accumulating in the tissues of fish and other aquatic animals . In addition to altering your metabolism, the microbeads end up being incorporated into the human diet and, consequently, also accumulate in our body.

The prohibition in the United Kingdom, an example for the world

Considering the impact of microplastics on ecosystems and on human and animal health, the United Kingdom has decided to approve the important ban on microbeads from history.

After analyzing the results of a public consultation, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has determined that the use of microbeads is prohibited in the manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products. Also for pet products.

However, sunscreens and make-up are not yet affected by this new determination .As the Greenpeace England points out, the decision is excellent news for the environment and reaffirms the leadership of the United Kingdom in combating microplastics in the oceans.

The reaction of companies after the ban

As you might imagine, the reaction of cosmetics companies and personal care products and pets has been negative. According to them, the prohibition generates significant economic implications, since it forces them to change the formula of their products.

On the other hand, NGOs involved with the care of the environment reaffirm that the costs of the pollution of the oceans will be much higher in the long term . They also point out that it is possible, and economically viable, to replace microplastics in the industry through reasonable investments.

In addition, the need to take urgent measures before the situation of our seas is highlighted irreversible , because the survival of numerous species and, consequently, of the human being is threatened.

The prohibition of micro-plastics should be, according to environmental companies, a guideline of interest and relevance for the company and its representatives.