December 4, 2023

Microplastics: A Halloween Without Glitter Dust – A Spectrum of Science

There are many ways microplastics can cause harm

Therefore, there are many ways in which microplastics can affect living organisms. According to experts, size and shape play a role on the one hand, and particle composition on the other: Common plastics contain a wide range of additives such as plasticizers, flame retardants, color pigments and much more. In addition, environmental pollutants accumulate on small fragments. In this way, a single particle can contain up to 100 different substances. When it enters an organism, it carries with it a large amount of potentially harmful substances, from toxins to endocrine disruptors, which have a hormone-like effect and can disrupt metabolism.

Even if microbes extracted from cosmetics make up “only a small fraction of the microplastics found in the environment,” as Caroline Volker and Joanna Kramm of the Institute for Social-Environmental Research in Frankfurt wrote in Spectrum Science in 2020, experts welcome the idea. New ban at the European Union level. “I consider the EU ban on microplastics to be an important first step in reducing plastic pollution,” writes Martin Wagner. Microbeads in cosmetics “make a small but manageable contribution to plastic pollution and bring us only a small the benefits”. Since the negative effects are not yet well understood, it is recommended to take precautionary measures.

An important first step

“In my opinion, a ban on added microplastics specifically would help reduce microplastic emissions into the environment,” says Bertling. There are already enough alternatives, especially when it comes to cosmetics, such as sand, ground fruit pits or ground coffee. Even if an outright ban on shiny particles may seem symbolic at first glance, British researchers actually called for it in 2017.

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However, in order to control the abundance of microplastic particles, the increasing amount of plastic waste must be treated. An international body is currently negotiating a global plastics agreement. “The world is facing a big problem with macroplastics, which release microplastics and chemicals. “Plastic production also contributes significantly to the climate crisis,” says Wagner. He therefore hopes to establish a strong set of rules: “If the convention succeeds in turning the tide towards the sustainable use of plastic without harmful chemicals, that is very welcome from a scientific point of view.”