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Forgotten: Synthetic polymers

Synthetic polymers represent, in addition to microplastics, which by definition are solid plastic particles up to 5 mm, another form of plastics used in cosmetics and care products such as shampoos and shower gels as exfoliating, thickening and binding agents. The man-made polymers come in liquid, gel or wax form and are chains consisting of constantly repeating chemical units. Many of them are based on petro-based raw materials, i.e. crude oil and natural gas. In contrast to biological polymers such as cellulose, gelatine or starch, they are very difficult or impossible to biodegrade, are almost completely discharged into wastewater and may therefore accumulate in the environment in the same way as microplastics. Your Share increases by a factor of 50than the corresponding amount of microplastics.

So far, there are no known negative effects on health and the environment caused by synthetic polymers. The reason: there are hardly any studies on these substances. Studies on individual substances have been ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) does not provide sufficient information.

Synthetic polymers, in contrast to microplastics, have therefore not been the focus of discussion so far. Most of these compounds are listed under REACH, the EU Chemicals Regulation, do not require registration because they are not in solid form. In the UMSICHT study This is explained by the fact that the possible hazards of synthetic polymers must first be proven by studies in order to be included in the list of chemicals to be regulated. This would disregard the fact that many of these substances are not biodegradable. Synthetic polymers are therefore described in the study as under-regulated.

In September 2019, the Hessian state government presented the Request "Avoiding liquid and dissolved plastics - For a comprehensive strategy to reduce persistent polymers" to the Bundesrat. This motion was supported by the Environment Committee and the Europe Committee of the Bundesrat, but rejected by the Economics Committee of the Bundesrat. The Federal State of Hesse thereupon withdrew his application again.

The best-known synthetic polymers, some of which are also found in externals, include:


© Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Susanne Saha 04/2021

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