Bangor scientists: 'microbeads are damaging Welsh marine life'

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Bangor scientists: 'microbeads are damaging Welsh marine life'

Related tags Cosmetics

Scientists at Bangor University are reporting cosmetics containing plastic microbeads to be damaging Welsh marine life.

The University’s marine biologist Dr Andrew Davies, reported his team to have discovered the tiny spheres accumulating inside the guts and gills of plankton as a result of cosmetic pollution.

Microplastics can be found in the likes of scrub creams and shower gels, and marine scientists have been finding these particles to be accumulating in the ocean, causing considerable environmental damage of late.

In fact, Dr. Davis told BBC News Wales that microbeads can cause "major problems" and scientists have been trying to understand the "ecosystem effect" of microplastics as they pass through the food chain.

Marine biologists have also pointed out that, unlike other plastic-based pollution, assessing the exact impact of microplastic particles on the environment is particularly difficult, as they range in size from 0.0004 to 1.24 millimeters.

EU cosmetics industry has moved to ban microbeads

The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Sweden issued a joint call to ban the use of microplastics in cosmetics at the end of 2014, to protect its’ marine life from contamination.

The joint statement​ had declared that the elimination of microplastics, particularly in cosmetics; “is of utmost priority” for the EU members.

The four countries supporting a ban, have stated that while there is still some scientific uncertainty about the sources of contamination; “what we already know is sufficient to take action”​.

These voluntary industry commitments further justify an EU-wide ban, the Dutch argue, saying the EU needs to restore a level-playing field for industry and strengthen the Union's role as a frontrunner for innovative products.

"Although it is evident that alternatives to microplastics in cosmetics and detergents are available, hundreds of tons of microplastics are still being released onto the EU market each year (for instance in Germany there are around 500 tons of polyethylene in cosmetic products​," the statement reads.

Some cosmetic brands have already pledged to stop using microplastics..

Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever announced it was planning to phase out microplastics from a number of its personal care ranges this year, in response to increasing awareness over environmental concerns.

The company said that it had reviewed the growing evidence on microbeads from its own product portfolio and that it has consequently decided to take action on micro beads for all current ranges and a number of products in the pipeline.

"We have decided to phase out the use of plastic micro beads as a ‘scrub’ material in all of our personal care products.  We expect to complete this phase out globally by 2015,"​ the company said in an official statement.

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