During the past day, women used groundnut shells, salt crystals as scrubbing and exfoliating agents. Over these years, all these natural but traditional, biodegradable alternatives are being replaced by a non-biodegradable, cheap tiny plastic particle, called microbeads. It is increasingly clear that microbeads, which, like plastic bags, are made of polyethylene, are a harmful and unnecessary pollutant.
Today, a significant number of personal care products such as face wash, toothpaste,exfoliating scrubs and anti-ageing creamsare known to contain thousands of microbeads per product. When these products are washed down after use into drain, microbeads flow through sewer systems before making their way into rivers and canals and ultimately, straight into the sea and ocean, where they contribute to the plastic soup. They are too small to be retained by the standard filters used at sewage treatment plants. The surface of microbeadhas been proven to attract and absorb persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs and DDT in marine environment.
Marine species are unable to distinguish between food and microplastics/microbeads and therefore indiscriminately feed on microbeads. These sea foods (e.g. fish) are regularly consumed by humans. This is the way microbeads start accumulating in the food chain, transfer from species to species, with harmful consequences ultimately to humans. Toxic chemicals added to plastic during the manufacturing process (such as plasticizers and flame retardants) leach out of plastic in the small to large water bodies, wetlands and the marine environment and poses serious threats to marine fauna.
Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO has initiated policy advocacy and public awareness campaign on microbeads in 2015. As part of this initiative conducted an extensive study titled “Study Report on Microbeads! Unfold Health Risk and Environmental Pollutant“ which revealed that Bangladesh is at a great risk of micro plastic pollution by both primary (e.g. Exfoliating Personal Care Products) and secondary sources (e.g. natural defragmenting of macro plastic debris in the sea). Study finding shows that the microbeads are the growing problem in Bangladesh, estimated release of microplastic or microbeads in three major cities i.e, Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet is around 7928.02 billion. In Dhaka city 6628.48 billion, in Chittagong city 1087.17 billion and in Sylhet city 212.3 billion of microbes dumped into the water bodies and landfill.
In Bangladesh, there is no legislation regardingmicrobeads or microplastics induced pollutions. Environmental and Social Developmental Organization (ESDO) carried out a precursor study on microbeads prevalence, usage in Bangladesh to see whether or not it’s creating any pollution threats for environment, human health directly or indirectly. Combing primary survey, information sources and extraction secondary information from literature review this National Report has been prepared entitled “Microbeads: Unfold Health Risk and Environmental Pollutant”.
This National Report is the first report on microbeads pollution and associated risk/ threats in Bangladesh so far. ESDO carried out the study from January, 2015 and an initial report on findings has been shared with journalists through a press conference, held on October, 2016. This report discussed what is microbead, it’s sources, how it is causing pollution, posing risk to health, environment and has tried to reveal route of pollution in Bangladesh, what is happening globally and most importantly recommendation(s) for Bangladesh on possible way forward.
The study report onmicrobeads pollution risk in Bangladesh is based on primary survey, desk review of literatures and fish samples analysis and the study has found presence of microbeads in fish flesh. The study also found usage of significant amount microbeads containing personal care products from face scrub,toothpaste, shaving foam to detergent are used by consumers (sample population) without knowing its ingredients and waste disposal process. The mentioned study of ESDO on microbeads has revealed that In Bangladesh, microbeads pollution is unaddressed issue where neither manufacturers nor consumers are aware of the negative impact of microplastics and the microbeads. In Bangladesh,microbeads containing beauty and cleaning products are widely in use.Both local and imported products containing microbeads are now available in Bangladeshi market.
ESDO proposes following interventions to address the micro plastic pollution:
Study Report on Microbeads! Unfold Health Risk and Environmental Pollutant“