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Plastic Microbeads

Plastic Microbeads

Alice Tittley, Olivia Trace, Helen Warburton & Theresa Zhang

Hi! We are Alice, Olivia, Helen and Theresa and we are currently in year 10. This all began when we decided to focus our bronze CREST project on the features of exfoliating face washes and it quickly became something more. After finding out how damaging plastic microbeads were to the environment, and also how little the general public are aware of the issue, we decided we needed to spread awareness about the problems involved with the use of those microbeads in order to try and prevent further damage being done to the oceans.

We tend to believe the sea is pure and pristine. Enchanting and mystical. Something to be cherished and explored. But what most don’t know about is the sheer amount of damage we cause to the sea. Every year eight million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean - pollution so significant that at the current rate, by 2050, the weight of plastic in the ocean will far exceed that of fish.

A recent study showed that 90% of all sea birds have plastic in their stomachs. This plastic, once consumed has severe consequences; internal bleeding, starvation and eventual death. The WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) estimates that one million seabirds die this way annually. And it is not just sea birds that are affected; it is estimated that over 650 marine species are affected by plastic pollution. Even molluscs such as mussels and oysters ingest and retain tiny beads of plastic and these plastic microbeads can have a massive and devastating knock-on effect: once released into the ocean, they are an immediate source of toxicity, carrying and spreading harmful chemicals such as phthalates (which has been linked to breast cancer, reproductive failures and metabolic problems).

Once consumed the beads release the chemicals into the stomach and “can wreak havoc on the hormone systems of mammals, including whales” say experts. A discouraging truth confirmed by the 100,000 mammals that die each year due to plastic pollution; a tragic consequence of the plastic-coated toxins. This is due to the knock on affect these microbeads have on food chains where toxins build up to lethal doses in top predators- all the way from the minuscule plankton to colossal whales...

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