Smoking was one and so was a golden tan. When scientists finally had the compelling evidence to support that both of these activities were likely to increase your risk of cancer, it was undoubtedly too late for some. Jump forward to 2016 and I can’t help but feel that our future generations will look back and say, ‘Well of course putting toxin absorbing micro plastics into your face wash wasn’t a good idea’. Once again, the global product making giants have taken the liberty of adding a substance to many household and beauty products without giving much thought to the effects. Have I completely lost you? Have you ever heard of ‘Plastic Micro-beads?’ No? Well you aren’t alone.
Micro-beads are really tiny plastic particles usually smaller than two millimeters. Made from a variety of plastics, they are being used in products such as face and body wash, makeup and lipstick, toothpaste and surface cleaning agents. They are those tiny little granules that you have probably never paid much attention to, unless of course they were bright purple and hard to miss like those in your acne face wash when you were a teenager. Who knew, that one day your purple plastic micro-beads would complete a full circle, from cleaning your face to poisoning your seafood. When these little guys wash down your bathroom drain they don’t just stop at the waste water treatment plant, they are so tiny that they get through and are discharged into our waterways [Source 1]. As a population, we have successfully dumped millions of tiny micro plastics into our waterways polluting our harbours, rivers and oceans with no way of removing them [Source 2].
The plastic micro-beads don’t just pollute the waterways. These little micro-plastics also have the ability to become toxic, absorbing ‘persistent organic pollutants (long-lasting toxic chemicals like pesticides, flame retardants, motor oil and more) and other industrial chemicals’ [Source 3] which are in the water. The now toxic plastic micro-beads settle on the bottom of our water ways, where hungry sediment eating marine creatures gobble them up.
Shut your eyes, here comes the scary part
Studies have found that toxins which are absorbed into plastic micro-bead have the ability to transfer into the tissues of sediment eating marine creatures [Source 4]. What? Apparently yes (insert sad face here). Professor Emma Johnston from the University of New South Wales has found 'big' micro-plastics in fish from Sydney Harbour. "The full extent of their toxicity is still unknown." [Source 1]. If this isn't making sense, see my Food Chain diagram below.
If you would like to know more about personal and household products that contain no harmful chemicals that are safe for you and our marine life, contact me via Facebook or email.
Want to know more? The Story of Stuff have a quick video run down on the plastic micro-bead story. Click the button the left to go straight to YouTube or go to their website here: http://storyofstuff.org/plastic-microbeads-ban-the-bead/
Source 1 - http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-07/coles-woolworths-support-ban-on-microbeads-in-australia/7073674
Source 2 - D. Barnes, F. Galgani, R. Thompson, M. Barlaz, Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 364, 1985-1998 (2009). (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X13006097).
Source 3 - Chelsea M. Rochman, Eunha Hoh, Tomofumi Kurobe & Swee J. Teh, Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress, Scientific Reports 3,Article number: 3263 (http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/131121/srep03263/full/srep03263.html)
Source 4 - Yukie Mato, Tomohiko Isobe, Hideshige Takada, Haruyuki Kanehiro, Chiyoko Ohtake, and Tsuguchika Kaminuma,Plastic Resin Pellets as a Transport Medium for Toxic Chemicals in the Marine Environment, Environ. Sci. Technol., 2001, 35 (2), pp 318–324 (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es0010498?journalCode=esthag)