Microplastic - Doubly Dangerous

Plastic is loaded with ingredients that are bad for the environment, people and animals. The smaller the plastic particles, the more dangerous they are. These so-called microplastics are used mainly in cosmetics but are now slowly being introduced into the food chain. The effects on humans and animals remain unresolved.

The term microplastic refers to plastic particles that are smaller than five millimetres. Microplastics are most often used as granules or as a binder in peels, toothpaste, shower gels, and make-up. However, there is not currently a labelling requirement for products that contain microparticles. It can, therefore, be difficult for consumers to find out if their products contain them.

Besides the type of microplastic used in the cosmetic industry, there is also a second type of microplastic. This type is mainly caused by the collapse of the huge garbage islands in the ocean. Weathering processes, triggered by waves and the sun can "break" up large plastic pieces, turning them into microparticles.

Apart from their development, there are no big differences between the two types of microplastic. Both remain in the ocean for centuries. The plastic itself contains many phthalates and softeners, which may be hormonally active, toxic and carcinogenic. As if that were not enough, the small plastic particles act like magnets for environmental toxins. Their surfaces are fairly permeable, which means that the toxic concentration of the plastic pieces can be up to a hundred times higher than the concentration in the surrounding water.

Because there is virtually no place on earth anymore where microplastic does not appear, it is slowly making its way into the food chain. Small sea creatures confuse small plastic particles with food and eat it. The toxins are not excreted but accumulate in the fatty tissue of the animals. Then these little animals are eaten by larger animals. Gradually, the microplastic makes its way into our foods. Not only fish are affected. It has been detected in milk, honey, beer and even drinking water. The effects on our health are still uncertain. However, various studies suggest the worst.

The reason why this type of plastic is used in cosmetics is simple. It is versatile and inexpensive. However, there are several biodegradable alternatives. These include the shells of nuts as well as grape seeds or minerals such as salt, clay or chalk.

An EU-wide ban (Regulation (EU) No. 1907/2006) on the intentional addition of microplastic particles to all cosmetic products came into force on October 15, 2023. This affects cosmetics with loose glitter or products with so-called microbeads. These are no longer allowed to be sold. There is a transitional period for all other products during which they must switch to microplastic-free production.

If you want to even contribute to reducing the use of microplastics, you can be sure to buy products without these substances when purchasing cosmetics. They are not allowed to be used in natural cosmetics. In addition, it helps to properly dispose of plastic waste by making sure it is recycled. There are apps available that provide information on both ingredients and microparticles.