C&H Weekly

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Microplastics – Do you know what your personal care products are made of?

Microplastics continue to be an environment concern, the good news is the Federal Government is taking an active approach. Just this week Ottawa labeled microbeads as a ‘toxic substance’ enabling them to ban the plastic beads use in cleansers.

Our very own Dr Jean Carruthers has taken an interest in the topic and recently submitted an abstract on the subject to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. We’ve included it below.

Carruthers & Humphrey takes great concern in our patients health and wellness, as well as the environment. All scrubs recommended by our Physicians are ecofriendly, biodegradable, and the beads are made from jojoba oil. Please let us know if you have any additional questions about the products we carry.


From our Personal Care products to our Drains to our Oceans to Sea Life

Authors: Jean Carruthers MD, Andrew Day LLB, PHD

Patient safety is the prime focus of our ASDS. But we and our patients may be unknowingly using grooming and skin and hair and tooth care products that are polluting our rivers and oceans with microplastics. Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in size that are widely inserted into such topical cosmetic products as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and facial scrubs. These microbeads can be found alongside other problematic ingredients in cosmetics, such as parabens, that are persistent and endocrine disrupting.

Because microplastics are so small, waste management systems cannot not readily capture and recycle them. Instead, they slip down our drains and into rivers and oceans where they are can be mistaken for food by zooplankton, molluscs and fish. There is growing data that indicates that micro plastics have a negative impact on the health of these marine organisms. Less is known about their direct effect on human health but there is evidence in mammals that they are taken up in the gut in the M cells in Peyers’ patches and brought into the lymphatic system and subsequently excreted in urine and faeces.’

We and our patients are each day unknowingly polluting the world’s water systems, aquatic life, and our bodies. The most practical solution is to prevent the inclusion of harmful compounds in our grooming and health products.

There is a growing political consensus in the USA, Europe and Canada that the microbeads designed explicitly for use in the pharmaceutical and personal care sectors are best managed by elimination from such products through either a voluntary withdrawal or a regulatory instrument. Canada is enacting regulations in 2016 to eliminate microbeads under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), while the USA is proceeding to implement a ban on microbeads through the Microbead-Free Waters Act through a “phasing out” interval leading to elimination by 2018.

I took two commonly available high-end facial scrubs to our Vancouver Aquarium’s new Ocean Pollution Research Program lab. I asked them to test for microbeads only; not parabens or other problematic ingredients. The researchers were able extract a high density of microbeads from both products. However, the researchers then used a state of the art analytical instrument to identify the polymer types of microbeads. In these two examples, the beads were not comprised of plastic, but rather a mixture of natural minerals and cetyl alcohol, which is a waxy moisturizer used in some cosmetics products.

As evidenced by this analysis, alternatives to plastic microbeads exist and are being used. Unfortunately, many products still contain the polyethylene microbeads found in rivers, lakes and oceans. More environmentally friendly product design and stronger industry and consumer education are urgently needed.

As ASDS members we can support this important environmental initiative by raising awareness in our industry, outlining alternatives, and making our patients aware of which skin and personal care products contain plastic microbeads, so they can make informed care choices. We can also focus on other problematic ingredients. Compounds in sunscreen, for instance, can contribute to bleaching coral reefs, which in turn causes loss of sea life and loss of tourism experiences.
ASDS Patient Safety can partner with ASDS Environmental Care in collaboration with our marine science and political colleagues to make a difference on these issues.

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