Myopractic what is it

Microplastics - small poison carriers from the drainpipe

We often find plastic waste such as plastic bags or plastic bottles on our coasts and river banks and in our seas. Less obvious - but no less common - are microscopic plastics: microplastics.

Definition: what is microplastic?

Microplastics are solid and insoluble synthetic polymers (plastics) that are smaller than five millimeters. Microplastics attract environmental toxins, are eaten by marine organisms and cannot be removed from the environment.

The cosmetics industry not only uses particulate microplastics, but also other synthetic plastics - these can be swellable and in some cases also soluble in water. Since the degradation pathways and environmental effects of liquid plastics have not been clarified and subsequent removal from the environment is not possible, the entry must be prevented in accordance with the precautionary principle. That is why BUND advocates a ban on microplastics and other synthetic plastics in cosmetics and personal care products.

Microplastics attract poisons - and damage marine life

Due to its surface properties, plastic acts like a magnet on environmental toxins. These are in the water and accumulate on the plastic surface. Concentrations a hundred times higher can be measured here than in seawater. The plastics, together with the pollutants, are then absorbed by the marine organisms: Microplastics have been detected in seals, fish, mussels and smaller organisms that ingest it passively or with their food. These pollutants can be released again in the gastrointestinal tract and influence the organism.

The effects of microplastic uptake are varied: Studies indicate tissue changes or inflammatory reactions and toxicological effects, including internal injuries and deaths.

Microorganisms such as zooplankton are an important food source for fish. These are in turn eaten by larger predatory fish. The undegraded plastic and the pollutants can accumulate in the tissue and thus become part of the food chain. Little is known about the effects on humans.

What is certain, however, is that the smaller the plastic particle, the greater the risk of ingestion and the greater the number of animals that will consume it. Once microplastics are in the rivers and the sea, they cannot be removed again. The state of the marine environment is worrying and the effects are difficult to predict. The avoidable entry of microplastics must therefore be stopped.

How do microplastics get into the environment?

There are two different types of microplastics: primary and secondary microplastics. So-called plastic pellets, which are manufactured by industry for further processing, are called primary microplastics. Fine plastic granules and liquid plastic are used in cosmetics production. They can be found, for example, in peelings or as massage pearls in shower gels, but also in liquid form as a binding agent.

At present, the sewage treatment plants cannot sufficiently filter the small particles out of the wastewater. Microplastics from households can get into the environment and water bodies unhindered. Secondary microplastics, in turn, arise when larger plastic parts break down through the action of the sun, wind and waves. The larger plastic breaks down into its original form, plastic pellets.

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