MICROBEADS: They’ve invaded the St. Lawrence River…but how bad is bad?

MICROBEADS: They’ve invaded the St. Lawrence River…but how bad is bad?

CORNWALL, Ontario – Local researchers are studying the dangers posed by tiny microbeads found in soaps, toothpaste and cosmetics that are filling up the St. Lawrence River.

The federal government is developing an action plan on the tiny beads, that have been found in alarming levels in the St. Lawrence according to a report from CTV News this week.

The St. Lawrence River Institute is investigating the matter as well, reaching out to experts in Toronto and Montreal to determine the severity of the problem.

But just how bad the issue of microbeads is remains to be seen.

“There is one school of thought that says they are just there and we should just be aware of them,” said Dr. Jeff Ridal, executive director of the river institute. “But are they having an impact?

“I think the (opinion) of the public is that they shouldn’t be there.”

Ridal suggested the microscopic beads just might serve as collectors for PCBs. He said researchers have found them in small aquatic life in the river, in great numbers. There is a chance that if they continue to dominate the river ecosystem, they could enter the food chain and present an issue when it comes to human consumption.

“If you put PCBs onto these plastics there is a danger they could be ingested,” he said.

The river institute is highlighting the problem at a public symposium May 6 at the OPG Visitor Centre in Cornwall where McGill University professor Anthony Ricciardi will speak.

The environmental agency is also exploring research project options with its partners on the subject.

“We have seen it as an issue in the oceans…but didn’t realize the scope of the issue in the river,” said Ridal, adding the river institute has formed a working group with leading researchers to explore the issue.

CTV reported the New Democrats want the federal government to list microbeads as a potential toxic substance. Such a move would give the government the ability to control their use, including banning them in consumer products.

Ridal said some U.S. states are mulling similar moves and the cosmetics industry is moving away from their use.

Health Canada says the beads are safe for use in cosmetics and food. But environmental groups say the trouble starts when they’re washed down the drain.


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