© Thompson/Bakir/Plymouth University

     Everyday cosmetic and cleaning products contain huge quantities of plastic particles, which are released to the environment and could be harmful to marine life, according to a new study.

Research at Plymouth University has shown almost 100,000 tiny ‘microbeads’ — each a fraction of a millimetre in diameter — could be released in every single application of certain products, such as facial scrubs.

The particles are incorporated as bulking agents and abrasives, and because of their small size it is expected many will not be intercepted by conventional sewage treatment, and are so released into rivers and oceans.

Researchers, writing in Marine Pollution Bulletin, estimate this could result in up to 80 tonnes of unnecessary microplastic waste entering the sea every year from use of these cosmetics in the UK alone.

The latest study was led by PhD student Imogen Napper, together with Professor of Marine Biology Richard Thompson, Professor of Organic Geochemistry Steve Rowland and Postdoctoral Researcher of Analytical Chemistry, Dr Adil Bakir.

Imogen said: “As the study unfolded I was really shocked to see the quantity of microplastics apparent in these everyday cosmetics. Currently, there are reported to be 80 facial scrubs in the UK market which contain plastic material, however some companies have indicated they will voluntarily phase them out from their products. In the meantime, there is very little the consumer can do to prevent this source of pollution.”

Microplastics have been used to replace natural exfoliating materials in cosmetics and have been reported in a…

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