Home > Environment, Health > Tiny plastic timebomb – the pollutants in our cosmetics.

Tiny plastic timebomb – the pollutants in our cosmetics.

By Steve Connor  18th May 2014.             Find Full Article Here:-

You probably didn’t know they were there, but millions of tons of microbeads are being washed into the sea, up the food chain, and heading for the tuna on your plate.

When you scrub your face and brush your teeth, the tiny microbeads wash down the drain into the sea where they can be eaten by marine life.

Millions of people are unwittingly pouring hundreds of tons of tiny plastic beads down the drain. These can persist in the environment for more than 100 years, and have been found to contaminate a wide variety of freshwater and marine wildlife, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Few consumers realise that many cosmetic products, such as facial scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels, now contain many thousands of microplastic beads which have been deliberately added by the manufacturers of more than 100 consumer products over the past two decades.

Plastic microbeads, which are typically less than a millimetre wide and are too small to be filtered by sewage-treatment plants, are able to carry deadly toxins into the animals that ingest them, including those in the human food chain such as fish, mussels and crabs, scientists said.

While many people have assiduously tried to recycle their plastic waste, cosmetics companies have at the same time been quietly adding hundreds of cubic metres of plastics such as polyethylene to products that are deliberately designed to be washed into waste-water systems – one estimate suggests that, in the US alone, up to 1,200 cubic metres of microplastic beads are washed down the drains each year.

Scientists and environmentalists have started lobbying the industry to stop using plastic microbeads in exfoliant skin creams and washes, but with limited success – a relatively small number of firms have publicly agreed to phase them out, and even then have given themselves several years to do so.

Britain, along with the rest of the EU, is being urged to follow the lead of New York State which last week became the first place in the world to prohibit the use of plastic micropellets in cosmetic products after a failure by the vast majority of personal-care companies to agree to an immediate voluntary ban.

The New York State Assembly decided to act after scientists found disturbing levels of microplastic beads in the Great Lakes of North America. The researchers said the beads arrived in waste water contaminated with the microplastic residues of more than 100 consumer products, including facial scrubs, soaps, shampoos and toothpaste.

 

Microbeads up close

“People are unwilling to sacrifice water quality just to continue to use products with plastic microbeads. I never met anyone who has wanted plastic on their face or in their fish,” said Robert Sweeney, chair of the assembly’s conservation committee, after last week’s unanimous vote to ban the use of microbeads in personal-care products.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last year heard evidence of the serious impact that microplastic waste could be having on Britain’s aquatic environments. Some members of the committee are calling for tougher legislation if the cosmetics industry continues to prevaricate.

“There is no reason for these microplastics in cosmetic products and I think they should be phased out. If they are not taken out voluntarily, then there should be legislation to ban their use,” said Graham Stringer MP, a member of the Commons committee.

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