Friday, March 27, 2009

Beauty Products Kill Marine Life

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Plastic factors into beachings at least 50 percent of the time. Rescue workers were unable to save this whale near Tokyo.

While beauty products may be good(?) for humans; they are plastic death for marine mammals. The question one might be asking is: How can something I use in the privacy of my own bathroom harm sea animals on the other side of the earth?

Most people cannot afford pricey specialized spa treatments and usually buy a tube of exfoliating facial scrub for a do-it-yourselfer at home. These facial scrubs contain rough particles specifically for the purpose of removing dead cells on the surface layer of skin when rubbed vigorously onto the face. The intent is to remove the old, dead, gray cells causing healthier, newer cells to be exposed for a younger, glowing look.

While a facial scrub is an effective technique, experts are split regarding the overall benefits of a “scrubbing” cream. No one has ever scrubbed anything clean with a feather; so, it stands to reason that these particles will have rough surfaces (sea salt, crushed almond shells) in order to grab and remove the dead cells. Unfortunately, there is some evidence they also are capable of scratching the skin underneath. Synthetic (plastic) “microscubbers” are gaining in popularity lately because they can be molded into perfectly round, little spheres that are unlikely to scratch the skin’s underlying layers making them seem more user-friendly.

Now on to the problem. How can my microscrubbers be resposible for a whale beaching in Tokyo?

When garbage makes its way into the ocean – whether it comes from cruise ships, tributaries, sewage systems, air currents – eventually it ends up in the garbage vortex in the Pacific Ocean. (See Jan.7/09 blog) This floating garbage dump is twice the size of Texas and approximately 3.5 ton (3.17 metric ton) in weight. It has been determined that 80% of this is plastic; including the tiny synthetic microbeads we’ve flushed down the sink after our facial scrub. Nice, glowing skin for us – death for sea life.

We all know about the hazards of plastic bags, plastic six-pack rings and other plastic hazards harming or killing sea life; but, some facial cleansers must now be added to the list.

These plastic microbeads are so small (approx. the size of one grain of sand) they don’t always get filtered out of the water system before the water makes it back to the ocean. Small sea life like mussels, clams, and crustaceans mistake them for plankton and feast on them. These creatures are now loaded with plastics which they pass up the food chain to larger fish, otters, octopi and whales.

A connection has now been made between ingested plastic and beached whales. Whales, like every other marine animal, cannot digest plastic so it ends up in their tissues and stops them from functioning properly. A researcher at Aberdeen University who studies beached whales says plastic is a contributing factor in beaching at least 50% of the time.

Check your facial scrub labels for organic ingredients only. Many big-name brands use the plastic microbeads for scrubbers. These include Olay, Neutrogena, Aveeno, Clean & Clear and Dove among others.

Biodegradable exfoliants include crushed nut shells, sea salt, sugar, ground bark and sand. Avalon Organics, St. Ives, Burt’s Bees and Freeman are a few of the brands that still use the organic, biodegradable materials for scrubbers. Personally, I am a slave to Burt’s Bees and Freeman.

If you chose to stop using a facial scrubber because of the plastic microbeads, a letter to the company explaining your choice would go a long way to help making our oceans plastic-free.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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