Sunday, April 4, 2010

Microplastic pollution in the ocean - washing our hands of it

I recently visited the south west coast of the United States and met with the author of a news article that has generated some interest. Judith Garfield, writing for the La Jolla Village News, outlined a source of plastic pollution that I had never considered -- micro plastics specifically designed for our use and simply washed down the drain.
At this point people are fairly aware that waste packaging let loose on the land finds it's way into the ocean via stormwater run-off. Unbeknownst to folks like me micro plastics are also  negotiating their way into the ocean through common everyday activities. It seems that many skin care products liberally used by millions of people from soap and skin scrubs to hand cleansers and shower gels have tiny plastic beads.
The particles (see photo on left) are as small as grains of sand and are smaller than water treatment facilities can capture. These tiny grains, polyethylene beads, then are whooshed out into the ocean. Once in the water they are mistaken for food by small creatures. Subsequently these micro plastics enter the food chain and there is every reason to believe they will end up on our dinner plates at some point in the future.
Having this information gives us another opportunity to actively care for the health of our ocean and ourselves through diligent observation of labels. Making skin care and soap purchase choices that favour exfoliants extracted from natural sources, fruits, seeds, nuts, grains, pumice will send a message to the manufacturers that we are prepared to face this problem. These actions will also lay down a challenge for manufacturers to make better choices too.

1 comment:

  1. An article in AMSA Bulletin 178 Spring 2008 Plastic resins - Are they a Threat? was brought to our attention. Worth digging it out if you are interested.