A visiting expert from US today drew attention to the
emerging concerns around the environmental impacts of microplastics in
cosmetics at the ongoing beauty trade show in Pasay City.
Speaking at the 3rd Philippines International Beauty Show, Dr. Ann Blake raised
the issue of microplastic ingredients in personal care and cosmetic product (PCCP)
formulations as contributing to the micro-sized plastic litter in the oceans. Blake made a similar presentation last Monday
before cosmetic regulators at a forum organized by the Food and Drug
Blake’s participation at this major industry event was made possible by the
collaboration between the Chamber of Cosmetics Industry of the Philippines
and the EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit environmental watchdog.
Microplastics are plastic particles less than 5 mm in size
or as small as several microns (millionths of a meter) serving many functions
in cosmetics, including exfoliation, emulsion stabilizing, film-forming, skin
conditioning, viscosity regulation and many others.
Products that may contain microplastics from less than 1% to
as much as 90% of product weight include soap, shampoo, children’s bubble bath,
shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste, facial masks, facials scrubs, wrinkle cream,
shaving cream, moisturizers, lipstick, eye shadow, sunscreen, etc.
“Microbeads and other microplastics are designed to go down
the drain. Because they are too small to
be captured in wastewater treatment facilities, the extremely tiny plastic
particles travel straight to the ocean,” said Blake, a public health and environmental
consultant with over 23 years of experience finding safer alternatives to
industrial chemicals in global manufacturing.
“These plastic materials are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life who
mistake them for food. Microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals such as
persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and work their way back up the food
chain,” she said
“Microplastics and toxic chemicals in fish are a concern as
fish provide a major source of protein for 3.1 billion people. As a continent, Asia
has the highest global fish consumption,” she emphasized.
To cut the use of microplastics in cosmetics and their eventual disposal to the
ocean, Blake posed a few questions for cosmetic formulators and manufactures to
ponder: 1) Are microplastics necessary
for product performance?, 2) What are the safer alternatives? 3) What about a natural solution that could
support a local industry by using an agricultural product or waste, or
sequester carbon and restore agricultural soil?
Among the safer alternatives to microplastics
as identified by the US Personal Care Products Council include beeswax,
rice bran wax, jojoba waxes, starches derived from corn, tapioca and carnauba,
seaweed, silica, clay and other natural compounds.
Multinational cosmetic companies and international cosmetic trade associations
have voluntarily decreased their use of microbeads in response to the “Beat the
Microbead” NGO campaign starting in 2012.
Among these companies are L’Oreal, which plans to phase out polyethylene
microbeads from exfoliates, cleansers and shower gels by 2017; Crest, which
plans complete their phase out of microbeads in toothpaste by 2017, and Johnson
& Johnson, which plans to complete by 2017 their phase out of microbeads
that began in 2015.
Blake also noted that in January 2017, the ASEAN Cosmetic
Association recommended the discontinuation of use of microbeads for the protection of
the environment, especially the waterways.
The US, the UK, several European countries and nine US states have
initiated bans on microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products; the
earliest of these bans become effective July 1, 2017.
“Given the associated potential risks of microplastics, a precautionary
approach is recommended toward microplastic management, with the eventual
phase-out and ban in PCCPs,” the “Plastic in Cosmetics” report published by the
UN Environment Program said.
“Redesigning products that are more environmentally friendly, less plastic
intensive and use safer chemicals can contribute towards reducing potential
health threats posed by microplastics in PCCPs,” it added.