Microplastic it's everywhere
Microplastics have been found in every corner of the Planet, from fresh and salty water to aquatic organism, from table salt to soils, fruits and vegetables. Even in the air we breathe. This pollution can reach humans: to date we have no firm evidence on the possible impact of this contamination on our health but not enough evidence that can rule it out.
Greenpeace examined the presence of plastics among the ingredients of certain detergents for laundry, surface cleaning and dish washing on the Italian market. The survey took place in two modes: an online search was carried out in a first phase in which the websites of 20 companies were checked to check for plastic polymers and copolymers among the ingredients of 1,819 products.
In a second phase, 31 products underwent laboratory surveys to check for solid particles less than 5 millimeters in size (commonly known as microplastics). Greenpeace also addressed a letter to companies with a questionnaire to ask, among other things, whether the plastic polymers and copolymers found in their products were in solid, liquid form, semi-solid as well as soluble and which could be excluded from the ECHA proposal. Plastic in liquid or semi-solid form comes from the combination of two or more types of polymers, known as copolymers, which are made up of multiple synthetic monomers (e.g. styrene and acrylates) or are a combination of modified natural substances and synthetics.
1819 examined, 427 contaminated
Of the 1,819 products examined in online research 427 (23% of the total) contained at least one plastic polymer or copolymer. With regard to the different product categories 31% (303 out of 984) of laundry products contained at least one plastic polymer or copolymer among the ingredients and this percentage was 22% (48 out of 218 products) for dishwashing products and 12% (76 out of 617) for products intended for surface cleaning. The companies with a higher proportion of products including plastic polymers and copolymers found were: Procter & Gamble (53% with Dash, Lenor and Viakal branded products), Colgate-Palmolive (48% with Fabuloso, Ajax and Soflan branded products) and Realchimica (41% with Chanteclair and Vert brand products from Chanteclair).
On the contrary, the presence of plastic polymers was not detected among the products examined belonging to the brand Almacabio.
Why microplastics and plastic are used in detergents?
The addition of microplastics and other plastics (polymers and copolymers) in solid, liquid or semi-solid form serves to ensure certain features such as:
• To ensure abrasive power in detergents with solid microplastics .
• To form a film that wraps the drops of perfume in tiny capsules, thus ensuring the slow release, in detergents (for fabrics) with fragrances.
• To ensure anti-foaming effect (avoid excessive production of foam of the product) and/or mattifying (on surfaces or skin) in detergents.
• To obtain the right degree of viscosity of the product or to form a protective layer inside some products.
To date there are numerous substitutes for these substances such as clay, silicon carbide or silica to ensure the abrasive capacity of the product, or for the release of fragrances in washing machines. Natural substances such as pectins, cellulose, clay or silica can be used. Finally, as alternatives to waxes and polishes based on polyethylene and polypropylene (plastic polymers), we find beeswax and carnauba wax (obtained from the leaves of a particular palm tree) and for opacizing instead natural compounds.
Percentage of products containing there ingredients
Colgate-Palmolive — 66 controlled products, 32 of which contain plastics among ingredients (48%)
Conad — 18 controlled products, of which 5 contain plastics among ingredients (28%)
Madel — 43 controlled products, of which 1 contain plastics among ingredients (2%)
Henkel — 120 controlled products, of which 35 contain plastics among ingredients (29%)
P&G — 147 controlled products, 78 of which contain plastics among ingredients (53%)
Realchemistry — 158 controlled products, of which 64 contain plastics among ingredients (41%) (41%)
Almacabio — 44 controlled products, 0 of which contain plastics among ingredients (0%)
Many plastics in
detergents consist of a combination of two or more types of polymers, known as copolymers. Such substances may contain multiple
synthetic monomers (e.g. styrene and acrylates) or they are a combination of modified natural
substances and synthetic.
To date the most common definition of microplastics refers to particles in solid form of less than 5 millimeters and does not include liquid, semi-solid and/or soluble polymers and copolymers that today they escape every regulation in force. To most of these substances are available little information about their behavior once released into the environment, their possible effects on aquatic organisms and in general their environmental impact. However, it is evident that this genre of type of plastics, found in detergents, is released into the environment through household drains and, in general, their persistence and poor biodegradability could produce pollution intended to last for decades.