Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Poisoned by your beauty regime

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We are poisoning our waterways and ultimately ourselves with microplastics in cosmetics. Photo / Thinkstock
We are poisoning our waterways and ultimately ourselves with microplastics in cosmetics. Photo / Thinkstock

One evening while having a shower I reached for a bottle of face-wash that was on the shower rack. While scrubbing off the grime, the microbeads felt great, that was, until I read the ingredients on the back of the pack and saw that they were made of polyethylene: plastic.

I was shocked to realise that I had just unknowingly rinsed hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic into the wastewater system, meaning they were destined to head straight for the ocean.

This is the terrible reality of your regular, over-the-counter exfoliator. We are poisoning our fish (and ourselves if we eat seafood) in return for a silky smooth complexion.

Mark Browne, a scientist at the Centre for Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities at the University of Sydney, has studied the consequences of microscopic plastic in marine habitats extensively. He says "as this debris occupies the same size range as sand grains and planktonic organisms, it is available to a wide range of invertebrates near the base of the food chain."

Plastics like polyethylene contain toxins (such as BPA and DHEA), which enter the food chain when they are consumed. When smaller organisms are consumed by predators, the toxins bioaccumulate - they get exponentially more potent.

Because we are hell bent on killing and eating all of the biggest, pelagic fish in the sea, us humans are the final step at the top of the chain and chemicals are entering our bodies with very high levels of toxicity.

Unbeknown to most of us, we are poisoning ourselves with our own consumerism, product choices and irresponsible waste disposal.

Aside from being carcinogenic, some of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors. This means that they mimic oestrogen - the gender-determining female hormone - and create an imbalance.

This is a problem that the medical and scientific community consider as one of the major medical challenges of our time.

And I am not just scare mongering here. This is actually happening.

The reality is that these chemicals are shrinking the average size of penises in boys, making them grow breasts and making girls go through puberty early.

So if you must have that perfect complexion, find an alternative that uses salt, pumice, ground seeds or macadamia shells. These products do the same job without poisoning our children and changing their bodies as a cost of our vanity.

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