No Shimmer: Why Scientists Want to Ban Glitter

Kids' hands holding piles of glitter
Kids' crafts may have to find another way to shimmer. (Image credit: Dragon Images/Shutterstock)

It's sparkly, it's festive and some scientists want to see it swept from the face of the Earth.

Glitter should be banned, researcher Trisia Farrelly, a senior lecturer in environment and planning at Massey University in New Zealand, told CBS. The reason? Glitter is made of microplastic, a piece of plastic less than 0.19 inches (5 millimeters) in length. Specifically, glitter is made up of bits of a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which goes by the trade name Mylar. And though it comes in all sizes, glitter is typically just a millimeter or so across, Live Science previously reported.

Microplastics make up a major proportion of ocean pollution. A 2014 study in the open-access journal PLOS ONE estimated that there are about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic weighing a total of 268,940 tons (243,978 metric tons) floating in the world's seas. Microplastics made up 92.4 percent of the total count.

Most of those microplastics were flakes that had sloughed off plastic items that were originally larger, like water bottles, fishing gear or plastic shopping bags, that study found.

Microplastics are a problem because marine life mistakes the floating particles for food. Eurasian perch larvae, for example, often choose to eat plastic over its regular diet, according to a 2016 study in the journal Science. Unsurprisingly, that study found, a plastic-based diet was not great for the fish's long-term health and survival. Even zooplankton, the base of the ocean food chain, have been observed eating plastics.

Original article on Live Science.  

Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.