Microplastics are termed this because of their size, being 5mm or less. There are two Classifications of Microplastics, those that are smaller broken down particles of larger plastics in the environment and those that have been intentionally created for a purpose. Exfoliating beads in cosmetics are made of tiny bits of plastic made for that purpose, to exfoliate. far too small to be removed using normal filtration methods that clear plastic bags and rubbish from our waterways.
The end result is that these tiny beads, about the same size as a grain of sand, are being pumped straight out of your shower plug into the ocean. Research from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science has studied sand from 27 sites across Sydney Harbour, and found up to 60 microplastics per 100 milligrams of sediment! (1)
A Toxic Sponge!
The worst thing about these microplastics is that they have the ability to absorb toxins. When they’re eaten by small fish and other sea life, these toxins can then concentrate up the food chain and contaminate the seafood eaten by humans. The toxins are bad enough that studies have shown that they can induce liver damage in the fish that eat them. (2)
Overseas, exfoliating microbeads are even being banned because of their impact on the environment. Microplastic pollution has been increasing 560 fold over the past 60 years! Time to ditch the plastic!
- Microplastics in Seafood and the Implications for Human Health. Madeleine Smith,1 David C. Love, Curr Environ Health Rep. 2018; 5(3): 375–386. Published online 2018 Aug 16. DOI: 10.1007/s40572-018-0206-z.
- Microplastics in the Aquatic and Terrestrial Environment: Sources (With a Specific Focus on Personal Care Products), Fate and Effects. DOI: 10.1186/s12302-015-0069-y
- Rochman CM, Tahir A, Williams SL, Baxa DV, Lam R, Miller JT, et al. Anthropogenic debris in seafood: plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption. Sci Rep. 2015;5:14340. DOI: 10.1038/srep14340.
- Wright SL, Kelly FJ. Plastic and human health: a micro issue? Environ Sci Technol. 2017;51(12):6634–6647. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b00423.
- Hodges GM, Carr EA, Hazzard RA, Carr KE. Uptake and translocation of microparticles in the small intestine. Morphology and quantification of the particle distribution. Dig Dis Sci. 1995;40(5):967–975. DOI: 10.1007/BF02064184.