A new study revealed that litter made of glitters from clothes, makeup and craft projects are destroying freshwater habitats and cause ecological damage as a whole
A new study revealed that litter made of glitters from clothes, makeup and craft projects are destroying freshwater habitats and cause ecological damage as a whole — and even those eco-friendly alternatives also have the same effects, Phys.org reports.
Researchers from Cambridgeshire said that the supposedly biodegradable glitters could be as toxic as their plastic counterparts. Plastic glitters can be washed down the drains and into the lakes and rivers, where they can harm animals and stunt plant growth, MailOnline reports.
Although freshwater does not account for much of the world’s waters, it is home to over 100,000 species of animals and plants that lead scientists in the UK to call out a complete ban on using glitters that could take thousands of years before it breaks down.
Glitters in Cosmetics Poison Freshwater Habitats
Modern glitters are made of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a material covered with colored aluminum and another thin layer of plastic.
According to Danielle Green, the author of the paper and an ecologist from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, many of the microplastic found in the rivers and lakes take thousands of years to degrade.
Glitters are ready-made microplastics found in cosmetics and dresses or crafts that get washed down the drain and into freshwater systems.
In their paper, they revealed that glitter on freshwater habitats reduced duckweed to half after five weeks of exposure to microplastics pollution.
Moreover, the glitters also decreased the water’s chlorophyll levels by three times its average level, which means that there is fewer phytoplankton present in the water. The fewer their presence, the fewer food available to freshwater, marine life, and fewer organisms that could absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Eco-Friendly Glitters Are as Destructive as Plastic Glitters
Although most glitter found today are made of plastic, there are also eco-friendly alternatives made from mica which is an ingredient used in makeup that gives its glittery look. While it is sourced from eucalyptus trees, it is still coated in plastic.
The researchers found that despite its eco-friendly name, these glitters can be as destructive as the plastic ones. They said that the environment is polluted by regenerated cellulose- and mica-based glitter that exhibited a two-fold increase in mud snails in New Zealand which are invasive animals found in polluted waters.
Their study, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, initially looked at the effects of glitter on the freshwater environment revealed that both the conventional and biodegradable types of glitter could cause serious ecological damage to freshwater habitats that ultimately could kill the organisms living in there.
“All types – including so-called biodegradable glitter – have a negative effect on important primary producers which are the base of the food web,” Green said. “Glitter with a biodegradable cellulose core has an additional impact of encouraging the growth of an invasive species.”
The researchers believe that the glitter’ adverse effects came from its plastic coatings or other materials involved in their production. Further research is advised to investigate this matter thoroughly.
Originally published at science times