How glitter could be damaging Rivers

Glitters are mostly seen as a part of someone’s Halloween makeup or tucked inside the greeting card. This sparkly glitter makes a good impact but then later it gets tossed or washed away. These tiny sparkly mirrored plastics make their way into the drain and then waterways. But recently scientists have found some evidence that the glitters used in cosmetics and body paints are harmful to the environment.

According to the research, those degradable glitters could be causing severe damage to both lakes and rivers. That doesn’t make much difference if the glitter is a bio-degradable or conventional type because both are causing harm. Glitter contains some microplastics which take them a year to degrade. Also, it has a similar effect as other microplastics due to which it shouldn’t be released in large quantities. These microplastics are consumed by plankton, fish and birds causing a detrimental impact. Animals mostly die due to starvation when these plastics are collected in their system and this material can make its way up the food chain to end up on our plate.

After studying the effect of glitters in freshwater habitats, the researchers have also found that the presence of glitter has impacted the aquatic plants after 36 days. Their presence has halved the root length of common duckweed (Lemna minor) while the level of chlorophyll was gone three times lower than in control conditions indicating the reduced level of phytoplankton or microalgae.

Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at Massey University, told the Independent in 2017 that all glitter should be banned because it’s microplastic. She said, ” When people think about glitter they think of party and dress-up glitter. But glitter includes cosmetic glitters as well, the everyday kind that people don’t think about as much.” In her research, Farrelly found that PET, the plastic from which most of the glitter is made, can break down and release chemicals that can disrupt human and animal hormones.

Glitters are often compared to microbeads i.e., the tiny pieces of plastic once added in personal care for skin exfoliation. But later after looking at its harmful effects, it was banned in several countries around the world. Microbeads and glitters both have similar effects on the marine subsystem. It’s recommended that if you are wearing it as makeup then it would be sensible to wipe it off and put it in the dustbin rather than wash it into the waterways. Although the effects of glitter on our waterways are not fully known, research has shown that the presence of microplastics, in general, does have negative effects on aquatic species, the NOAA reports. The full impact of these plastics in our waterways is only just beginning to be understood, however.

Taking this matter into consideration, some brands and companies have already started to take action in the past couple of years. In 2018, 61 British music festivals said they would ban attendees from wearing glitter. Also, cosmetics brand Lush has replaced glitter in their bath products with synthetic, biodegradable substitutes. Some supermarkets like Waitrose and Aldi also announced they had removed glitter from all their products like crackers, cards, wrapping paper, and gift bags.

By Shreya Pawar


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