As the very wasteful population of the Earth begins to come to terms with the damage plastic is causing to the environment, GLITTER is the latest polluting ratbag to come under scrutiny. In fact, worried scientists want us to ditch it altogether for the planet – and our health’s – sake.
“All glitter should be banned”
“I think all glitter should be banned, because it’s microplastic,” said Dr Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at Massey University explained, speaking to The Independent.
These microplastics Dr Farrelly refers to are a worrying type of pollutant that not only include glitter, but also other environmentally hazardous – and frequently used – products.
Microplastic can be created by broken up larger pieces of plastic, but many synthetic fabrics and cosmetic or personal care products harbour hazardous microparticles too.
Things like toothpaste, facial scrubs, cleansers, shaving cream, sunscreen, deodorant, hairspray and eye shadow may contain these harmful particles and consumers may be unaware of how prevalent and damaging they are.
“The microbeads in scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes are an avoidable part of this plastic pollution problem. A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean,” the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee chairman Mary Creagh told Express UK.
Entering the food chain
These kinds of tiny microplastics are very attractive – and very dangerous – to animals and humans. Because humans are unaware of the damage they can do, our oceans and waterways are teeming with them. They routinely get washed down drains across the country – from our bathroom and laundry sinks and via our stormwater drains – ultimately ending up in the ocean putting sea creatures in peril.
Marine life, birds and other animals ingest these interesting-looking microplastics, thinking they are a food source, and are quickly the worse for it.
Humans may then ingest the animals, eating their regular fish and chip dinner, for instance – or by simply brushing their teeth – and the cycle of harm continues.
Once these plastics enter our food chain, our health may be compromised. This is why it’s so important to rethink our use of these plastics (and plastics in general). Researchers are still investigating the harm these particles cause to humans, so watch that space.
Ban the microbead
Australia is phasing out products with microbeads in them, but this phase-out doesn’t include glitter or larger plastic products which might break down.
If you’d like to avoid microbeads – and why wouldn’t you?! – there’s an app that can help with that. It’s called Beat The Microbead and it helps identify products that contain these harmful particles. Choosing natural fibres and avoiding synthetic fabrics that can release harmful plastic fibres into waterways when you do you washing is another helpful option.
“When people think about glitter they think of party and dress-up glitter,” said Dr Farrelly explained, “but glitter includes cosmetic glitters as well, the more everyday kind that people don’t think about as much.”
Say “no” to glitter
While Dr Farrelly says all hazardous glitter should be banned, it’s good to note that there’s a new movement toward environmentally responsible glitter that doesn’t pose a risk to animals or people.
She says fighting this kind of pollution is not just down to us. It’s up to manufacturers to nip these dangerous products in the bud and stop producing them.
“I’m sick and tired of consumers being held responsible for trying to avoid this stuff. I mean it’s literally impossible to,” she said.
“Producers need to be responsible. They need to use safer, non-toxic, durable alternatives.”