Recent research has shown that pharmaceuticals and personal care products can cause significant problems for waterways, affecting not only water quality but also negatively impacting the processes that plants and animals need to survive and thrive.
One way that those products are causing pollution in the Great Lakes may not just be due to the chemicals they are made from, though.
From Scientific American:
“Rather, small plastic beads, known as micro plastic, are the offenders, according to survey results to be published this summer in Marine Pollution Bulletin. ‘The highest counts were in the micro plastic category, less than a millimeter in diameter,’ explained chemist Sherri ‘Sam’ Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia, who led the Great Lakes plastic pollution survey last July. ‘Under the scanning electron microscope, many of the particles we found were perfectly spherical plastic balls.’Cosmetics manufacturers use these micro beads, or micro exfoliates, as abrasives in facial and body scrubs. They are too tiny for water treatment plants to filter, so they wash down the drain and into the Great Lakes. The biggest worry: fish such as yellow perch or turtles and seagulls think of them as dinner. If fish or birds eat the inert beads, the material can deprive them of nutrients from real food or get lodged in their stomachs or intestines, blocking digestive systems.”