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A Toxics-Free Future

Toxics Link Report about Microplastics in Cosmetics

Toxics Link has released a new report about microplastics in cosmetics. The report explains what microplastics are, how they end up in the environment, what their various impacts are (environmental, health, socio-economic, etc.), and alternatives to their use. 


Your facewash might be cleaning your face but polluting the environment!

Cosmetics sold in Indian market contain microplastics, says a recent study by Toxics Link

New Delhi, April 30, 2018: Next time when you clean your face with that scrub or facewash, do think twice, as you might be contributing to dwindling fish population! In a new study, ‘EcoPersonal Care Product, Microplastics in Cosmetics,’ Toxics Link has found that many cosmetics available in Indian shelves contain microplastics or microbeads. Microbeads are non-biodegradable, tiny plastic particles, that pose serious threat to the environment, especially marine animals, experts say.

Toxics Link carried out the study to investigate presence of microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products (PCCP) available and sold in India. Microbeads, generally smaller than 1 mm in size, are added to personal care products for various functions such as exfoliation and for its abrasive property. A total of 18 personal care products covering 16 major consumer brands were collected and tested in a certified laboratory under the scope of this study.The results indicate presence of microplastics in most of the rinse off cosmetics such as face wash and scrubs. 50% of facewash samples and 67% of scrubs tested, confirmed the presence of these tiny pollutants. Microplastic was not detected in any of the leave-on products included in the study.

Priti Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link who was part of this study explains ‘These tiny beads get washed down the drains when you use these products, evade routine filtration systems at water treatment orsewage treatment plants and eventually get discharged to the waterways and the oceans. Microplastics are mistaken as food particles and ingested by marine life, thus blocking their digestive tract and damaging digestive systems.’ Research studies done earlier have also shown presence of microplastics in packaged water across many cities in the world including Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. Secondary microplastics from breakdown of plastic products are also a major source of marine pollution. 

Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link elaborates, ‘Microplastics adsorbhighly toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals, Persistent Organic Pollutants and organo chlorine pesticides which adversely  impacts the  reproductive system of marine species. These toxic and harmful chemicals ultimately move up the food chain and reach human beings’. The direct impact on human health is still being studied.

Microbeads have been recognized as a pollutant globally and are being banned in many countries but there has been little action in India. Ravi Agarwal, Director, Toxics Link, adds, ‘Plastic in cosmetics is an avoidable use and needs to be phased out to safeguard our oceans and all living beings.’

Some major findings:

  • Different categories of rinse-off and leave-on cosmetic products of varied leading brands were tested for microplastics. 28% of all the tested products contain microplastics. 
  • 38% of the rinse-off products are detected with microplastics which include international  
  • 50% of the facewash products and 67% of the facial scrubs are found to contain microplastics
  • Predominating microplastics detected in the product samples is polyethylene.
  • Microplastics in cosmetics are being banned in many countries
  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has classified microbeads as “unsafe” for use in cosmetic products but its still being allowed to use.

About Toxics Link ( Toxics Link is an environmental research and advocacy organization set up in 1996 by The Just Environment Charitable Trust. It lays a special emphasis on reaching out to numerous grassroots groups; community based organizations and the public at large through its empirical study-based information on Environmental issues. Toxics Link works closely with all other stakeholders who are working on similar issues and has played a seminal role in facilitating the development of several common platforms for them at the national, regional as well as international levels.

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Priti Mahesh

Ruby Rani