Ban Exfoliating Microbeads for Their Harm to Aquatic Life

Target: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg

Goal: Push for a universal ban on the popular component in personal care exfoliators for their alleged harm to marine life

Known as exfoliating beads, micro-scrubbers, or micro plastic abrasives, this popular component in skincare has raised concern among many environmental groups for its alleged health impact on marine ecosystems. California-based non-profit 5 gyres names the microbeads one of the most “egregious forms of plastic pollution” as they are manufactured from a plastic specifically designed to melt away into drains – and eventually make their way into the ocean. The dissolved plastics can then accumulate through the food chain, wreaking havoc on marine animals’ digestion and endocrine systems.

Numbering up to 300,000 in one facial product, the beads turn up in freshwater ecosystems as well. According to 5 gyres, many municipal sewage systems occasionally release waste water directly into rivers during heavy rains. The non-profit’s 2012 investigation of Great Lakes exposed 600,000 microbeads per square kilometer in some samples.

Although some major cosmetic and personal care companies such as Unilever (Dove, Vaseline, and Ponds) have already banned the beads from their formulations, the microplastic beads continue to circulate in many products, often hidden under the label “polyethylene.” In addition to manufacturers pursuing sustainable alternatives such as apricot peel and cocoa beans, 5 gyres also stresses a collaborative approach to combating this environmental hazard whereby legislators enact the ban against microbeads and retailers and consumers make the component uneconomical by refusing to sell or by microbread-containing products.

By signing this petition, you can help protect our already delicate marine ecosystems and place an immediate ban on harmful microplastic beads.


Dear Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg,

I am writing to bring your attention to recent concerns over the environmental impact of micro-plastic abrasives, commonly known as exfoliating microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products. Designed to melt away and flush down the drain, these plastics have been detected in effluent that makes its way to rivers and even the Great Lakes, according to the California-based organization against plastics pollution 5 gyres’ 2012 study. The microbeads eventually flow into the ocean, where they may be ingested by marine life. The plastics can seriously disrupt animals’ digestion and endocrine systems.

Some major cosmetic and personal care companies like Unilever have already begun to phase out the use of microplastic abrasives. Unfortunately, the damage is already done. Samples from the Great Lakes alone showed up to 600,000 microbeads per square kilometer. Meanwhile, the plastics can accumulate throughout the food chain and wreak havoc aquatic ecosystems.

I urge you to place a ban on microplastic abrasives beginning immediately. While non-profits like 5 gyres encourage consumers to vote with their spending, legislation can encourage manufacturers and retailers to abide by practices that will preserve already delicate marine ecosystems. Manufacturers can use sustainable alternatives like apricot skins and cocoa beans, and retailers can buy only from manufacturers who do not use microplastics. In outlawing this environmental hazard, you have the opportunity to protect the ocean that sustains us. By enacting this ban on microplastics, you would take a major step in encouraging sustainable cosmetic and personal care products and show all too poignantly how pollution affects us all.


[Your Name Here]

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91 Signatures

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