Down the Drain

Is your favourite body prod­uct safe for you, the fish and the food chain?

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Pamela McIntosh

The im­pact of rinse-off prod­ucts on wa­ter­ways

Heightened con­sumer aware­ness about what goes onto our skin (and sub­se­quently into our body) from per­sonal care prod­ucts is all well and good. But what about the liq­uid rem­nants that go down the drain?

Rinse-off prod­ucts such as soap, shampoo, con­di­tioner, cleanser, body scrub and self­tan­ners take a post-use jour­ney into our waste-wa­ter fa­cil­i­ties be­fore end­ing up in the ocean. From here, things get fishy.

Poi­son pills

Dr Trisia Far­relly, a se­nior lec­turer at Massey Univer­sity’s School of Peo­ple, En­vi­ron­ment and Plan­ning, ex­plains how plas­tics in body scrubs – of­ten in the form of mi­crobeads – are a prob­lem, but in more ways than you would ini­tially think.

“There is a prob­lem with things like BPA [bisphe­nol A – a chem­i­cal that has been used to make some plas­tics since the ’60s] and mi­crobeads,” says Far­relly. “When [plas­tics] break down in the ocean, En­docrine Dis­rupt­ing Chem­i­cals (EDCs) leak out.”

EDCs are com­pounds that al­ter the nor­mal func­tions of hormones, re­sult­ing in a va­ri­ety of neg­a­tive ef­fects on our health.

But it goes beyond this, ex­plains Far­relly. “EDCs can also ad­sorb (be at­tracted by) Per­sis­tent Or­ganic Pol­lu­tion (POP) – that’s the nasty stuff like flame re­tar­dants, heavy me­tals, lead, mercury...

It’s the POPs that neg­a­tively af­fect the liver, kid­neys, res­pi­ra­tory and neu­ro­log­i­cal sys­tems in not only hu­mans but in an­i­mals [such as seal­ife] as well.”

This means that, sadly, plas­tics are not only leach­ing but are also at­tract­ing POPs, hence the in­dus­try term, ‘poi­son pill’.

Fish are drawn to poi­son pills be­cause they con­fuse them for food. And then these tox­ins end up get­ting in the tis­sue of fish flesh, which gets eaten by other larger fish. Which hu­mans eat.

You can see how fast and eas­ily this bio-ac­cu­mu­lates.

We can slow the cy­cle by be­ing more aware of toxic in­gre­di­ents in our per­sonal hy­giene kit (not only for your own sake but the en­vi­ron­ment’s) and try to cut down on the amount we use on a daily ba­sis.

“Plas­tics are a prob­lem ... but in more ways than you would ini­tially think.”

The es­ti­ma­tion of mi­croplas­tic frag­ments in oceans world­wide. The av­er­age num­ber of per­sonal care prod­ucts fe­males use each day. (Males use 6)* 12 51 mil­lion UK study The per­cent­age of fish that were found to con­tain small pieces of plas­tic in them. 33%

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