Monday, March 28, 2016

Working on the "Such a Pretty Face" speech

"Such a Pretty Face: how cosmetics impact your health and the environment," is the title of our speech for the AAUW Minnesota State Convention on April 30 in Duluth.

Rebecca takes notes as she re-reads "Not Just a Pretty Face"

"Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry" by Stacy Malkin

Anyone who uses soap, male or female is using what the FDA considers a cosmetic or beauty product. Most of us use several everyday. You most likely use a health and beauty product to be clean and presentable. You want to look good, but sometimes the use of the products can be unhealthy for both our bodies and the environment. 

Acne plagued me as a teenager, I used all kinds of special soaps and facial scrubs. Invented in the 1970s, I may have been an early microbead adopter using the special acne scrubs my dermatologist prescribed. It wasn’t until recently the microbeads became a popular product in many facial scrubs and toothpastes. Microbeads are extremely small spheres of plastic that act as exfoliating agents, they are so small — about the size of a grain of sand — that when they pass down the drain and onto the water treatment plant, the treatment plant is unable to filter them out and then the microbeads get dumped into our waterways and lakes. There are about 300,000 microbeads in a tube of facial scrub. Once in our lakes and rivers these little particles act like a sponge soaking up toxins, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and phthalates. Phthalates are hormone disrupters. Birds, fish and other marine animals mistake the plastic for food. And we in turn eat the fish. Microbeads have been found in tuna and swordfish.

In 2015, researchers estimated that more than 8 trillion microbeads entered our waters everyday. That’s enough to cover the surface of 300 tennis courts a day.  

Image by Sara M. Kross, from "Scientific Evidence Supports a Ban on Microbeads"
published in Environmental Science & Technology

In December 2015 Congress passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act. The use of microbeads in personal care products will be banned beginning June 2017. Now many companies are phasing out the use of microbeads. 

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Superior, including assistant professor of chemistry Lorena Rios-Mendoza, are credited for sparking the discussion of the prevalence of microbeads in the Great Lakes. She made headlines in the Duluth News Tribune in August 2013. And soon there was a buzz in the environmental world about these plastic beads. 

Rios-Mendoza is not only a researcher she is an advocate and is tackling the problem you could say one grain of sand at a time. According to the Duluth News Tribune during a press conference she reminded people of the three R’s of sustainability -- reduce, reuse and recycle -- when it comes to plastics.
"But I have a fourth one:” she said at a press conference. “Refuse.”
This is a story of hope. Environmental advocates have been concerned for years about these tiny spheres of plastic. The research and subsequent laws pertinent to the use of microbeads in health and beauty products can serve to inspire us that tackling environmental problems and big companies is not hopeless. Our voices matter and large companies listened. 

Many years ago lipstick contained lead and the ingredients in mascara blinded some women and led to the death of another. In our Such a Pretty Face speech, we are not here to alarm you. But we will make you aware of some harmful products you may be using every day.  

I don’t want to give away our whole speech on this blog, and you may have already heard of the microbeads issue. On April 30, you can expect to learn more about cosmetic safety and ways to reduce your exposure to dangerous chemicals.  

We are not out to strike fear or panic, you but to give useful advice so that you can make your own decisions.


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