TODAY |

Government investigating use of microbeads in beauty products

There are calls in New Zealand for the use of microbeads in cosmetics to be prohibited, following the United States' recent ruling to ban their use in beauty products.

Angela Stone, an ambassador for natural beauty company Xtend-Life, says she doesn't think people know they are putting plastic particles on their bodies and hair by using exfoliating products with microbeads.

"They are incredibly bad for the skin, they can actually tear the skin," she says.

The non-dissolvable beads pose an issue to the environment as many water treatment plants can't filter out the tiny granules.

"They end up in the ocean where they accumulate toxins and then they end up in the belly of a fish which of course we then eat," Green Party co-leader James Shaw says.

Some international brands have voluntarily decided to phase out the use of microbeads in their products.

Mr Shaw says the United States ban on their use, which will go into full effect in a few years, will suppress the market worldwide, making it "fairly simple" for the New Zealand government to follow suit.

Environment Minister Nick Smith says he has commissioned research into the environmental effects of microbeads and is open to a complete ban on their use.

"We just want to do the careful homework on how we ensure that is practical in the New Zealand context," he says.

Beauty products that contain microbeads are likely to have polyethlylene or polypropylene in the ingredients list.