Environment campaigners welcome announcement of investigation into microplastics by Chief Medical Officer

The Government has announced today that the Department of Health will review impacts of microplastic pollution on human health as well as harm to the marine environment, in response to a recent inquiry on microplastic pollution.

A coalition of environmental groups including the Marine Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International, Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency welcomes the announcement, recognising it as a step forward towards legislation to prevent microplastic pollution in future.

The UK government’s Environmental Audit Committee conclusion that microplastics cause harm to the environment is of sufficient concern to warrant the Chief Medical Officer investigating its impact to human health.

This highlights the need to ensure steps are taken to reduce the emission of microplastics into the environment.

On behalf of the coalition, Laura Foster said “We are optimistic that a ban on the use of microplastics in household and industrial products will result from this review. The evidence of the environmental impacts of microplastics is overwhelming. The scale of the problem is so great that impacts on human health are now a very real concern. Rapid action is needed to stop the rapid proliferation of microplastics, particularly in freshwater and marine environments.” Plastic litter in the ocean is a fast growing problem, with large items, such as packaging, breaking down into so-called microplastics, and microbeads being manufactured at a tiny size for use in a range of household products. These tiny plastics can spread toxic chemicals, being eaten by marine life and even travelling up the food chain to the seafood on our plates. The potential consequences of both of these types of microplastic to human health are greatly under-researched. The coalition calls for a number of actions to be taken to tackle the most common sources of microplastic pollution, including a ban on the use of all solid microplastic ingredients (whatever shape those ingredients are and whatever function they perform), in all products that can go down the drain. These products include, but are not limited to, personal care and cosmetic products (including toothpastes and deodorants) and cleaning products.”

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