Microbeads: “Tip of the Toxic Plastic-berg?” Regulation, Alternatives, and Future Implications

Microbeads are small plastic particles used as exfoliates in consumer and personal care products such as shampoos, soaps, lip gloss, and toothpaste. They also find application in abrasives, cleaning products, and medical devices. A recent literature review of the issue was carried out by uOttawa students in the ISSP’s Collaborative Master’s in Science, Society and Policy under the direction of former ISSP Director and Professor Marc Saner as part of the graduate Capstone Practicum of the master’s program.

The literature review covers three questions in the context of microbeads. (1) What is the comparative state-of-affairs of the current and planned federal regulations in Canada and the United States? (2) What can we expect to see in terms of replacement products and are there any safety concerns with those? (3) How does the current concern over microbeads in personal care products relate to micro-plastics from other sources, for example, from the breakdown over larger plastic products?

Photo left to right: Bud Locklear (Special Energy and Climate Advisor, US Embassy), Acacia Paton-Young (ISSP Collaborative Master’s program and Master’s student in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs), Rachel So (Environment, Water and Fisheries Specialist, US Embassy), Professor Marc Saner (uOttawa), Danielle Monosson (Deputy Counselor, Energy & Environment, US Embassy), Simon Lester (ISSP Collaborative Master’s program and Master’s student at the Institute of the Environment), Nicholas Girard (ISSP Collaborative Master’s program and Master’s student in Geography, Environment and Geomatics)

Photo credit: David Birdsey (Counselor, Energy & Environment, U.S. Embassy)

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