Canada: “microbeads are toxic substance”

The government of Canada has officially listed microbeads as a toxic substance. It is the first country in the world to do so. The Canadian Government is able to ban the use of microbeads in care products now that it has been recognized that microbeads in personal care products “have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity”.

The Order Adding a Toxic Substance defines microbeads in personal care products as polymers under five millimeters in size “to exfoliate or cleanse the human body”. As a consequence, other microplastics, both liquid and solid, used in cosmetics are not (yet) considered toxic. It is the extreme small sizes of some of these microplastics in particular which are potentially very harmful as they can enter tissue and penetrate cells.

The government estimates that in 2014 alone about 100,000 kilograms of plastic microbeads in exfoliants and cleansers were imported into Canada.

Maria Westerbos, director of Plastic Soup Foundation, the leading NGO behind the international Beat the Microbead campaign: “We congratulate the Canadian government with this very important decision. Without the pressure of Canadian consumers and the Canadian NGO Upgyres, this would never have been achieved.”