After finding out that microbeads are polluting aquatic habitats on a regular basis, U.S. scientists are requesting that they be all banned from the market. It seems as though 8 trillion beads are destroying the U.S. water every day and this is not something that we should casually avoid like any other minor issue. If we do not act, we are going to destroy our life source forever.
Let us start with the beginning: what are microbeads? We use microbeads every day: they are very small plastic pieces that can be found in toothpaste, soap and even face wash that helps exfoliation. They are rather common, but by using it we practically damn wildlife and ourselves. In short, it’s like throwing plastic on a beach, only that it takes a little longer for the plastic to get on the beach.
Eight trillion beads suffice if you want to cover around 300 tennis courts or more on a daily basis. This was an average approximation made in a paper published in the Environmental Science & Technology this month. We cover 300 tennis courts with plastic daily.
Stephanie Green, a conservation research fellow from the College of Science located in Oregon, has expressed her deep concern by saying that “we are facing a plastic crisis” and none of us are even aware of it yet. It is important that we act now before it is too late. According to Green, wastewater treatment plants were never designed to deal with such a large-scale issue.
The main problem with plastic beads is that they are not biodegradable. They do not decompose quickly and they remain “virtually forever”. This is how plastic was described by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Fish perceive these plastic pieces as yummy foods, but designing plastic pieces requires some chemicals that are deadly to fish. The yummies will be their end.
Let us suppose that the beads are not the only source of the problem. Treatment plants have a special way of treating water. Wastewater usually ends up in “settling tanks”. These settling tanks separate liquid waste from solid material. Approximately 95 to 99.9% of these microbeads are considered solid, but what is worrying is that the remaining beads are thrown out into rivers and oceans.
The study should be considered as a serious warning about how far we’ve gone in polluting the water around us. The matter is desperate, but it results from such a small detail that nobody is giving it the attention it requires. Hopefully, microbeads will be banned so that we do not completely destroy this world.
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