Scientists at Plymouth University recently conducted a study, and found that the “exfoliating beads” that are found in most toothpastes, facial scrubs, and soaps, are actually extremely damaging to the ocean’s ecosystems. Those “micro-beads” are actually microplastics, that are supposed to have the same effect that a natural exfoliant would. For a long time, people have assumed that these micro-beads were caught within the filtration system, and would have little to no effect on the oceans. However, this new research says otherwise.

These micro-beads are damaging to the ocean, for two main reasons. The first reason is that they come in different shapes and sizes, which makes them difficult to count during water sampling. The second reason is that most of these micro-beads (especially the ones in toothpastes) are blue or white, which is the same color of plankton that most lower-dwelling fish eat.

To contribute to the never-ending bad news, the scientists also stated that it would be “practically impossible” to remove the micro-beads from the oceans. Furthermore, researchers found that American consumers are responsible for 263 tons of microplastic going into the ocean each year.

On a more positive note, many states have placed regulations on microbeads. In particular, California’s legislation is the strongest, as they have completely banned all microbeads. The world is discovering that some of its decisions have a serious impact on the environment, and slowly but surely, positive changes are being made.