This series will look at the environment we live in and how we can look after it and protect it for years to come. This series came about from spending so much time outdoors and seeing the effects that man has had on where we live, what impact we have had on nature and starting my own quest on helping lessen the impact we have. This series will cover things like pollution in the air, water and terrain, rubbish, recycling, erosion, acid rain and a whole host of other environmental concerns.
Today’s post looks at our water pollution, specifically plastics in our seas and oceans, rivers and lakes. Plastics get into our water in many ways, from being dumped at sea to being left behind on beaches by tourists. Whatever the way the plastics are getting there doesn’t matter, they are there and they are causing hazards and environmental damage to our Eco-systems. What we should be doing is becoming more aware of products we use and by becoming aware, changing our habits to slow the plastics entering the water in the first place.
One of the ways that the plastics are getting into our waters is through the beauty industry adding polyethylene to face and body washes, this is a manufactured micro-plastic and these are teeny, tiny bits of plastic added to all manner of body care products to give a “scrub” effect. I have found micro beads in hand washes, body washes, face scrubs and all manner of foot care products, products manufactured to remove hard/dead skin or marketed as complexion brighteners. I have heard that micro-beads can be contained in toothpaste too which is worrying. These plastics are suspended in the product and once used, get washed down the drain and float off into oceans and rivers. They are so small that normal removal of plastics from the water is useless, the size of these particles is so small, and they just slip through. Once in the rivers and oceans, they get consumed by unsuspecting fish that then end up in our food cycle. This means that we then consume the plastics ourselves and it ends up inside us.
There are 2 main problems with this micro-beads usage, 1) once it gets back into the food chain and we consume it, it can stay in our systems, our natural acids can break it down and the chemicals released can cause a whole myriad of health problems, or these beads can adhere to our insides and cause cancer to form. 2) The micro-beads are left in the oceans and waterways are causing pollution and affecting sea life (both in the water and out – fish, birds, water mammals like seals and otters), it gets into their systems and can cause them to die.
That is not the end of it though, there are things we can do to change the micro beads usage and manufacture. The biggest change we can make is to switch to scrubs that contain more natural ingredients like pumice, salt, sugar or ground nut shells. When you want to purchase these scrubs, check the back of the pot or tube or packet and check the ingredients – look for words that end in ethane (polyethylene, polypropylene are good examples of micro beads used) and choose not to buy them. Look for other brands that use natural scrub ingredients and use those instead, or step away from scrubs and make your own instead (there are lots of recipes on line, use search terms as “DIY natural face scrub” or “Make your own natural scrub for body/face”). If we don’t buy into the companies that make these products then they cant make money from these products and will have to change, until then we are just going to be washing plastics down our drains, into the sewers and out into the wide world. If we can stop this practice, one person at a time, then we will be stopping an untold amount of damage being caused further down the line.
Further reading – http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/06/511843443/are-we-eating-our-fleece-jackets-microfibers-are-migrating-into-field-and-food (added to this post on 7th February 2017)