Put down that facial scrub and exfoliating body wash.
You may not realize it, but if you use these types of products, you may be releasing as many as 94,500 tiny plastic beads into the environment with every wash.
Experts at the U.K.'s Plymouth University recently decided to figure out just how many microbeads get washed down the drains everyday — and the numbers they found were staggering.
Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth, found that a single wash may contain as many as 94,500 microbeads. An entire tube could hold upwards of 2.8 million of them, and once used, they are all destined to make their way into the world's rivers and oceans.
Personal care products that use tiny exfoliators usually contain microbeads, the industry term for the miniscule plastic balls that provide a scrubbing action in everything from toothpastes to body washes. The beads are designed to wash down the drain and take dirt and oils with them. But the problem is that once in the drain, they make their way into waterways and may poison marine animals that mistake them for food.
The beads ranged in size from 0.01mm up to 1mm. "Their size means they can pass through sewage treatment screens and be discharged into rivers and oceans," Thompson told The Sunday Times.
They may also be combined into a sewage sludge, which is sometimes spread onto farmland.
For more info about the problems with microbeads, check out this Story of Stuff explainer:
President Obama signed a bipartisan bill that will ban the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads in the U.S. beginning in 2017. In August 2016, a British parliamentary committee recommended banning microbeads by the end of 2017.
But there's no need to wait until then to change your own actions.
Put down those planet-polluting microbeads and look for a product that contains a natural exfoliant like sugar or salt instead.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information.