An investigation shows that more than 20 brands of personal care products contain microplastics.
Peng Guyu, a Ph.D. candidate with the State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research (SKLEC), ECNU, has followed a months-long investigation on personal care products on the shelf in Shanghai supermarkets since last year. Her discovery is disheartening - more than 20 brands of shampoos, exfoliants, facial soaps, and other toiletries contain microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic that may pose problems in the marine environment.
“I found the presence of microplastics in nearly all products marking PP or PE in descriptions,” Peng said.
Microplastics have become one of the gravest threats to the marine ecological system.
Peng is doing a research related with microplastics. Her research is part of the project Marine Microplastics Supervision and Ecological Environmental Impact Evaluation Technical Study, which is led by Prof. Li Daoji with SKLEC. Officially launched in January this year, the project has been included into the national key R&D plan. As China’s first project setting sights on marine microplastics pollution, it aims to unfold the impact of microplastics on the marine ecological system, set up the analysis standard and monitoring methods for China’s marine microplastics pollution, and upgrade China’s core techniques and overall capability of microplastics ecological risk assessment and pollution source control.
Prof. Li Daoji
With ECNU taking the lead, the project is carried out by researchers from nine institutions, including universities, enterprises and research institutes, and will take years until December 2020 to complete. The Central Government has appropriated a budget of 16 million yuan for the project.
According to Prof. Li, in the next three to five years, the researchers will choose the Yangtze River and Pearl River estuary areas, typical fracture surfaces of Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea and East Sea, as well as key coastal beaches as targeted areas for the study on the drift and spreading route of microplastics in the sea, and the passing on and accumulation of microplastics in marine food chain.
The project Marine Microplastics Supervision and Ecological Environmental Impact Evaluation Technical Study is launched in January this year,
Prof. Li said although China’s ban on disposable plastic bag use has proved effective, it is not enough to prevent plastic pollution from deteriorating. He urged the government to tighten controls on productions and use pertaining to the environmental contaminants.
Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that are generally smaller than 1 millimeter down to the micrometer range.
Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms.
Dubbed “gentle killer of marine animals” by GESAMP, microplastics have become a global environmental concern because of their widespread presence in coastal areas, the open ocean and polar regions. In 2015, microplastics pollution was listed as the second- biggest scientific problem for environmental and ecological research, becoming one of the gravest threats to natural environment on par with climate change, ozone depletion and ocean acidification.