Green­peace urges mi­crobead ban to pro­tect ocean life Too small to be fil­tered

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

En­vi­ron­men­tal group Green­peace is call­ing for a ban in Bri­tain on plas­tic “mi­crobeads”, found in many cos­met­ics, which they warn pol­lute the oceans and poi­son ma­rine life. Cam­paign­ers want a to­tal ban on the tiny par­ti­cles-which are too small to be fil­tered-in prod­ucts that are com­monly washed down the drains.

Although only mak­ing up a frac­tion of the five to 12 mil­lion tons of plas­tic dis­charged into the oceans each year, these small beads are “prob­a­bly the most harm­ful”, said Erik Van Se­bille, oceanog­ra­pher and cli­mate sci­en­tist at Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don. “The smaller (the plas­tic) is, the most harm­ful it is,” he told a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day on the Green­peace ship “Esperanza”, moored near Tower Bridge in cen­tral Lon­don. “Most an­i­mals won’t eat an en­tire plas­tic bag, so the smaller it is, the eas­ier it is to be in­gested.” He said there was ev­i­dence that the ex­cess of plas­tic was caus­ing harm to sea crea­tures, in­clud­ing stop­ping oys­ters from re­pro­duc­ing. The tiny balls, which can be as small as 0.1 mil­lime­ters, are found in nu­mer­ous cos­metic prod­ucts, from fa­cial scrubs and ex­fo­lia­tors to shower gels and tooth­paste.

A 125ml tube of ex­fo­li­at­ing cream can con­tain sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand mi­crobeads, usu­ally made from poly­eth­yl­ene, ex­plained David San­tillo, a re­searcher for Green­peace at Ex­eter Uni­ver­sity. Too small to be picked up by wa­ter treat­ment fil­ters, they en­ter the oceans where they are “very ef­fec­tive at pick­ing up pol­lu­tants that are in sea wa­ter”, said San­tillo. These pol­lu­tants are then passed on to the fish, crus­taceans and mi­croplank­ton that ingest them.

‘Turn back the

The Bri­tish govern­ment is due to launch a three-month re­view process in De­cem­ber on plans to ban mi­crobeads, amid mount­ing pres­sure from Green­peace and other en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. A pe­ti­tion call­ing for a ban has gath­ered more than 375,000 sig­na­tures. It urges Bri­tain to fol­low the ex­am­ple of the United States and other coun­tries which have taken ac­tion to limit their use. An­tic­i­pat­ing the ban, Bri­tish su­per­mar­ket chain Tesco will re­move mi­crobeads from its own brand cos­metic and house­hold prod­ucts by the end of 2016, the group’s qual­ity di­rec­tor Tim Smith an­nounced on Thurs­day. He said Tesco had asked sup­pli­ers to ef­fec­tively “turn back the clock” to be­fore mi­crobeads, and use nat­u­ral al­ter­na­tives such as ground-down co­conut shells.

Cos­met­ics gi­ant John­son & John­son has pledged to re­move mi­crobeads from its prod­ucts glob­ally by the end of 2017 while tooth­paste maker Col­gate told AFP it hasn’t used them since 2014. US cor­po­ra­tion Proc­ter & Gam­ble says on its web­site that it is “in the process of elim­i­nat­ing them from our tooth­pastes and cleansers”.

Green­peace said it wel­comed the Bri­tish govern­ment’s plans to ban mi­crobeads but wants the leg­is­la­tion to go fur­ther to avoid loop­holes, warn­ing that the sit­u­a­tion is only wors­en­ing.

“By 2025, for ev­ery three tonnes of fish, there will be one ton of plas­tic” in the oceans, said John Sau­ven, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Green­peace UK. —AFP

SEOUL: Mem­bers of the en­vi­ron­men­tal group Green­peace col­lect beach balls sym­bol­iz­ing mi­croplas­tics from cos­metic prod­ucts (rep­re­sented by large bal­loons) dur­ing a cam­paign to sup­port a mi­crobeads ban, on the Han river in Seoul on Au­gust 9, 2016. —AFP

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