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Microplastics, Microbeads And Single-Use Plastics Poisoning Sea Life And Affecting Humans

From the 11th to the 17th of November, consumers everywhere are being asked to examine products in their
bathrooms and switch those with microplastics for safer alternatives.

Each year, an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean – equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute - the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has said.

Between 60 to 90 per cent of the litter that accumulates on shorelines, the surface and the sea floor is made up of plastic. 

The most common items are cigarette butts, bags, and food and beverage containers. Consequently, marine litter harms over 800 marine species, 15 of which are endangered. And plastic consumed by marine species enters the human food chain through fish consumption. 

Alarmingly, in the last 20 years, the proliferation of microplastics, microbeads and single-use plastics have made this problem even more pronounced. 

Most people associate marine plastic pollution with what they can see along coastlines or floating on sea surfaces. But microplastics and microbeads pose a hidden challenge as they are out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. 

Clean Seas Campaign

“What’s in Your Bathroom?”, is a campaign from UNEP which is due to begin next week, to raise awareness on the harm caused by plastics in personal care products and shifts that can be made to reduce plastic footprints.

Microplastics listed in Cosmetic products ingredients

* Polyethylene (PE)
*Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
*Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) 
*Polypropylene (PP)

UNEP launched the Clean Seas Campaign in 2017 to galvanize a global movement that tackles single-use plastics and microbeads. Now in its second phase, it is shining a light on specific aspects of marine litter, such as plastic pollution generated by the cosmetic industry.

Pic: Bali Beach

Many consumers are not aware just how much plastic there may be in the personal care items they use daily on their faces and bodies. 

From the plastic in packaging to the under-5mm microplastics hidden within the products, including beads or glitter, they are designed to wash down the drain, travel through rivers and ultimately end up in the sea.

Microplastics are too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants and attract waterborne toxins and bacteria that stick to their surfaces. Because they look like food, they are eaten by fish, amphibians, insect, larvae and marine animals as well as seabirds and other marine life, blocking digestive tracts and causing physical problems. 

In addition to endangering marine life, the health implications of microplastics on humans are not yet fully known, but considering their prevalence in clothes, food, water and cosmetics, are expected to be far reaching.

Source: UN News / United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Unionsafety reported on a new website and mobile phone app which allows you to scan the barcode on all products, including cosmetics and bathroom and get the information you need to exclude micro-plastics and other chemicals that are harming our oceans and beaches.

See: Children’s Bathing Products And Women’s Haircare And Make-Up Contain Potentially Harmful Chemicals


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