Glitter and other microbeads are used in cosmetics, body washes, clothing, and most commonly seen in arts and crafts supplies. However, glitter is made up of small plastic particles.
Most glitter is made of aluminum and a plastic called PET. Environmental anthropologist, Dr. Farrelly, has investigated how PET can break down to release chemicals that disrupt hormones in the bodies of both animals and humans.
These chemicals have been linked with the onset of cancers and also been known to cause neurological diseases. Dr. Farrelly said that she thinks all glitter should be banned.
“I think all glitter should be banned, because it’s microplastic.”
Scientists have argued that these particles have made their way into the ocean where animals then consume it. Many have placed the number of microplastics in the world’s ocean at up to 51 trillion fragments in total.
Plastic particles were discovered in about one-third of the fish caught in the United Kingdom, according to the findings of a study carried out by Professor Richard Thompson.
“I was quite concerned when somebody bought my daughters some shower gel that had glitter particles in it… That stuff is going to escape down the plughole and potentially enter the environment.”
Arts and crafts enthusiasts have been aware for years that glitter tends to attach itself to objects and never seems to come off. It has been reported that the sticky decorations are also an ecological hazard that needs to be banned across the globe, according to CBS News.
Environmental scientist stated that the risk of glitter in respect to ocean pollution is far too great.
Seven states in the United States have also enacted legislation that restricts the use of microbeads in certain health and beauty products like facial scrubs and body washes, according to CBS News.
California became the first state to place a ban on the products in 2015, according to the Independent.
While many microplastics result from plastic debris breaking down into small pieces, tiny particles called microbeads are manufactured for cosmetic and health products.
While attention has been fixed on microbeads, other forms of plastic, which include glitter, has now become a point of focus.
Many British nurseries have already banned the products from their facilities as the country is expected to officially ban items which contain microbeads in 2018.
Microplastics are defined as plastics which are less than five millimeters in length. The small size of the craft supply reportedly makes them appealing to many animals, who eat the dangerous objects.
Scientists at New Zealand’s Massey University have also agreed that glitter is a microplastic and because of that should be banned.
Cheryl Hadland, director of Tops Day Nurseries, told the BBC that the kilos of glitter being used across the country would do “terrible damage.”
“There are 22,000 nurseries in the country, so if we’re all getting through kilos and kilos of glitter, we’re doing terrible damage.”
A ban on microbeads will come into force in the United Kingdom one year after scientists and campaigners made the impact clear.
Michael Gove, an environment secretary, said that plastic waste was “putting marine wildlife under serious threat.”
Glitter could be an overlooked component in the wider problem of marine plastic pollution, and they are used in a wide range of products.
Dr. Farrelly said that when most people think about glitter, they think of party and dress-up glitter. However, glitter is used in a wide variety of daily products.
“But glitter includes cosmetic glitters as well, the more everyday kind that people don’t think about as much.”
Noemi Lamanna, co-founder of eco-friendly glitter distributor Eco Glitter Fun, said that more people need to be aware that glitter is made of plastic.
“No one knows that glitter is made of plastic… We were heartbroken when we found out.”
Similar to the state of California and the United Kingdom, New Zealand has also taken steps towards limiting the use of microbeads. However, she said it is currently unclear whether or not this will include glitters.
According to a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if glitter is incorporated into “rinse-off” cosmetics and personal care products it will be covered by the 2018 ban. Other glitters, however, will not.
Professor Thompson said that an outright ban might not be necessary, emphasizing a pragmatic approach that considers the likelihood that glitter will end up in the environment.
Moreover, eco-friendly glitter that breaks down quickly could be a viable replacement that doesn’t end up in the food chain.
The cosmetics chain, Lush, has replaced glitter in its products with synthetic, biodegradable alternatives. The move was praised by Dr. Sue Kinsey, who is a senior pollution policy officer at the Marine Conservation Society.
“It’s a positive move by the company, who have listened to advice and clearly understand the threat.”
Dr. Kinsey said this will also send a clear message to customers who will be able to make the right choices in various areas of shopping.
Dr. Ferrelly said that avoiding cosmetic glitter and microbeads is a “no-brainer.”
“I’m sick and tired of consumers being help responsible for trying to avoid this stuff. I mean it’s literally impossible to… Producers need to be responsible. They need to use safer, non-toxic, durable alternatives.”