The latest environmental scare

Do you notice the dog that didn't bark in the report below?  Did you notice that there is no EVIDENCE about how harmful microparticles are?  It's all theory and falls into the category of things that are OBVIOUSLY bad and so must be discouraged.

All too often, however, things that are OBVIOUSLY bad turn out not to be bad at all -- with dietary fat being the most recent major example of that.  So you need to be able to put numbers on just HOW bad a thing is.  Doing so can generate surprising revelations  -- such as the fact that dietary fat can be GOOD for you.

So what DO the numbers say?  What is the research evidence on how bad these things are?  And how come there was no mention of any such evidence below?  I think I know.  In just ten minutes of searching I found the following sentence in a review article on the subject:  "Bioavailability and the efficiency of transfer of the ingested POPs across trophic levels are not known and the potential damage posed by these to the marine ecosystem has yet to be quantified and modelled".

In other words, nobody knows how harmful they really are.  The article is from 2011 so much knowledge my have accumulated since then but I an not hopeful.  I suspect that microbeads are a very minor problem in the great scheme of things

I note that I searched the "Marine Pollution Bullein" which did have lots of up to date articles on the subject -- but they were all about how prevalent the beads were in various locations. That they were just obviously bad seemed to be taken for granted.  Nowhere could I see any quantification of harms

And if there is a seminal article quantifying harms I would be delighted to scrutinize its metholoogy.  As a former university teacher of research methods and statistics, and as as frequent practitioner of same, much that seems plausible to others seems hilarious to me.  I can often tell where the bodies are buried, even with no knowledge of the particular field.  As is now widely recognized, junk science is in epidemic proportions these days

Facial scrubs are used daily by millions of people to exfoliate their skin - but scientists have exposed the tiny toxic plastic beads hidden in the products.

Each wash contains up to 94,500 microbeads, while one tube comprises up to 2.8million of the beads, which experts at Plymouth University extracted.

Microbeads, among the fastest-growing forms of marine pollution, can cause physical damage or poison sea life with the chemicals and microbes on their surface.

Richard Thompson, professor of marine biology at Plymouth University, published a photograph of the amount of microbeads extracted from popular facial scrubs.

He told The Sunday Times: 'It can be hard to convey in words how small these beads are and how many are released by one wash, but the picture shows the scale of the impact much better.'

He said the beads ranged in size from from a 0.01mm up to 1mm. 'Their size means they can pass through sewage treatment screens and be discharged into rivers and oceans,' he explained.

When the facial scrubs are washed away, they are washed into sewage sludge and can spread onto farmland. Smaller beads can escape filters and are subsequently washed out to sea.

Experts say the size of the beads looks like food to plankton and baby fish - and can poison them when eaten. This is then passed up the food chain to larger fish and birds.

Mary Creagh, the Labour MP and chairwoman of the environmental audit committee, which is holding an inquiry into microplastics, told the Sunday Times: 'Most of us would be horrified to learn how many bathroom products contain this plastic rubbish.'

The Plymouth researchers only examined facial scrubs but microbeads are widely found in many cosmetics.

The US government has banned microbeads in consumer products under a law that will go into full effect in 2017.

This month Waitrose announced it will ban microbeads from all products sold in its shops. The supermarket chain has already removed them from its own beauty products and has promised that from September it will stock only branded products which do not contain them.

Banning microbeads makes sense, campaigners say, because they are not necessary for washing products. Their abrasive effect can be replicated by natural exfoliants such as tiny fragments of rice, apricot seeds, walnut shells and bamboo.

Banning microbeads, however, will not end microplastic pollution. All plastic items that end up in lakes, rivers and the sea tend to disintegrate, creating tiny scraps of plastic with a similar effect.

Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon and polyester, also disintegrate, and tiny plastic ‘microfibres’ are also eaten by marine life, with a similar effect to microbeads.


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