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Commons Library Briefing Papers: latest update

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016This Commons' briefing paper provides a brief overall of the functions and remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016Microbeads are small plastic particles used in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products such as scrubs, soaps and toothpaste. A study calculated that more than 4,300 tonnes of microbeads were used in the EU plus Norway and Switzerland in 2012. Microbeads enter the environment when consumers rinse them down the drain. The microbeads are subsequently released into rivers and the sea with waste water outflows. Microbeads make up a small proportion of overall levels of microplastics in the environment. Microplastic debris in marine environments is growing in volume. It comes from a number of sources, such as the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic over time and industrial scrubbers used to blast-clean surfaces. Microplastics may have serious environmental and human health impacts. They can be ingested by marine animals leading to physical harm and reproductive or toxic effects. There is evidence to suggest that microplastics are entering the human food chain. However, more research is required to understand the implications of microplastics. In the USA a ban on microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products will be phased in over the next few years. There have been calls to introduce a similar ban in the UK and EU. The UK Government is currently working with industry on a voluntary phase-out of microbeads. A number of companies have already discontinued their use.

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