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Sinister plastics: micro plastics and microbeads in cosmetics

by Prakher Mathur on July 04, 2019

Plastic continues to be a major threat for our marine and life on terrain alike. According to recent studies our ocean floors are covered with  70 kgs of plastics every sq km. Microplastics are often touted as the devils among demons. Let’s look at major sources of microplastic pollution and why they are major threat to our environment.

What are microplastics?

Plastic particles of size less than 5 mm are referred to as microplastics whereas particles of size less than 1mm are called microbeads. In the cosmetic industry many brands use microplastics intentionally as bulking agents. Large chunks of plastics can also breakdown into microplastics over the years and contaminate water bodies as secondary microplastics. Anything plastic if not recycled will eventually breakdown into microplastics.

Why are microplastics bad for you?

Microbeads are added as exfoliating ingredients into many face wash and other cosmetic care products. These abrasive particles can damage the cornea, the eye’s outer covering. Solid polymers can also cause irritation and permanent abrasions on sensitive skin.

Why are microplastics a major concern for environmentalists?

They can not be recycled! Moreover, they enter food chains relatively easily because they are often mistaken as plankton by aquatic life. These plastics over time accumulate in the food chain and are likely to enter our stomachs too. Microplastics are also not picked up by our filtration plants because of their miniscule size. According to the United Nations Environment Program study, 1.5 mn tonnes of microplastics are disposed off into the oceans every year. In the Indian market, 50 per cent of face wash products and 67 per cent of facial scrubs contain microplastics, according to research by Toxics link. While many national regulatory authorities have taken a step-forward and banned the inclusion of microplastics in cosmetic products; India lags behind when it comes to formulating and implementing such laws.

What can we do about it?

Be it as consumers or as manufacturers, we as human beings need to be conscious about the ingredients being used in our products. Campaigns such as the plastic soup foundation have taken the lead and in rewarding the brands which are 100 percent microplastic free. Looking for certifications by such not for profit organizations can help us create a sustainable Industry. We at Conscious Chemist pride ourselves in being associated with this organization.


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