On July 1st 2018, after two years in the making, Canada officially passed a law banning the import, manufacture, and sale of products containing microbeads. What a happy Canada Day we had this year!
In case you didn’t catch that – this is great news! Even though it means you may have to say goodbye to your favourite facial cleanser or body wash, it means we are collectively taking a step forward to ensuring our oceans – and the fish we eat – stay free of toxins.
It’s easy to overlook the tiny microbead. They’re minuscule, and wash down the drain and out of our memories forever. But while they might be out of our memories, they don’t stay out of our lives – each day up to 8 trillion of them enter the waterways of the USA alone! And while it might seem like that would be the end of the road for the tiny plastic pieces, microbeads make their way back into our systems through the fish we eat.
This is a problem for us, because once consumed by fish, the microbeads (like any other plastic) attract and collect toxic chemicals. According to ScienceAlert.com, this includes “a class of pollutants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are known to cause neurological problems, decreased immune function, and even fertility problems.”
A research team from RMIT University in Australia found that once the microbeads have attracted these pollutants from inside the fish, the fish then absorbs 12.5% of those pollutants. It’s not totally clear yet how much of that is absorbed into our systems when we eat the fish, but we do know it’s not zero: “we know generally that if someone eats a fish, they risk eating any pollution that may be in the fish.”
And it’s not just US waters that are contaminated. Just a couple months ago, in May 2018, CBC published an article highlighting what they called an “alarmingly high” amount of microbeads and plastics appearing in areas off the coast of British Columbia used for shellfish farming.
A ban on microbeads is a great step towards reducing the plastics in our oceans and our food (and, therefore – in us, too!). But we need to continue to be better about our use and disposal of plastics as a whole. The CBC article also revealed that one of the largest perpetrators of plastics ending up in BC’s coastal waters was the Shellfish Industry itself.
5 Tips for reducing your plastic footprint
- Use reusable bags or baskets for grocery shopping
- Avoid produce that comes wrapped in unnecessary plastic
- Carry refillable water bottles and travel mugs with you
- Purchase a set of reusable straws like these ones from Terra20
- Leave it the way you found it: Don’t leave garbage behind when you’re out enjoying nature