Health and environment watchdogs have urged the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of plastic microbeads in beauty products.
Plastic microbeads used in personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs) exfoliate and clean skin pores but supposedly pollute oceans.
“We seek your immediate action in order to protect the marine ecosystems from microplastic pollution by prohibiting the production, importation, distribution and sale of PCCPs containing plastic microbeads within a reasonable time frame,” Eileen Sison, president of EcoWaste Coalition, said in a letter to the DOH and FDA.
Plastic microbeads are made from synthetic polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyly methacrylate, nylon and other plastic materials and are used in a variety of PCCPs like exfoliating scrub, facial cleanser, shower gel and toothpaste.
These could be so small as to be visible.
A study by RMIT University in Australia and Hainan University in China showed “that up to 12.5 percent of the chemical pollutants on the microbeads can pass into the fish that eat them,” providing “conclusive evidence” that miniscule plastic particles can leach harmful substances into fish that consume them.
In a fact sheet released by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), these miniscule particles could be ingested by fish, affecting the health of its secondary consumer like humans or other marine species.
“These extremely tiny plastic particles from PCCPs can act like sponge, absorbing toxic pollutants in the oceans, which are ultimately ingested by fish and other aquatic animals who mistake microbeads for food,” Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, said a previous statement of the group.
In this statement, the coalition appealed to Miss Universe 2017 candidates to lend their voices to help protect marine life against adverse effects of plastic microbeads.
“Today’s beauty queens are known advocates for environmental, health, humanitarian and cultural causes. As known consumers and promoters of PCCPs, we call upon them to add the removal of microplastics in PCCPs in their list of advocacy issues for a healthier planet,” Lucero said.
Meanwhile, UNEP’s data showed over 299 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide in 2013.
This cost environmental damage amounting to an annual average of $13 billion.
Unlike its plastic packaging, plastic microbeads cannot be collected for recycling.
Replacing them with biodegradable plastics such as polylactic acid is still advisable because such plastics only degrade when subjected to high temperatures in industrial settings.
“Taking action now against plastic microbeads in PCCPs, reducing plastic bag use and preventing the spillage of plastic waste into the oceans are essential steps that must be undertaken to stem the tide of microplastic pollution, which could have a devastating impact on ocean health and food security, especially in fish-eating nations like the Philippines,” EcoWaste Coalition said.
Their letter was endorsed by 50 other groups, including the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Conservation International, Greenpeace, Haribon, Marine Conservation Philippines, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Oceana, Save Philippine Seas and 350.Pilipinas. MICAH VARDELEON