Facial scrubs threaten health and environment

20 July 2015

Dr Sally Gaw will discuss the impact of microplastics on the environment at a free public lecture at the University of Canterbury (UC) at 7pm on Wednesday 22 July.

 Facial scrubs threaten health and environment

Dr Sally Gaw

Dr Sally Gaw will discuss the impact of microplastics on the environment at a free public lecture at the University of Canterbury (UC) at 7pm on Wednesday 22 July.

Dr Gaw is Director of Environmental Science and a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Chemistry at the University, where her research interests focus on the environmental fate and toxicity of contaminants in the environment.

Her lecture What if…..plastic was not used in facial scrubs? will explore the sources and impacts of microplastics in the world’s oceans and outline measures to reduce the amount of plastic entering the oceans.

Dr Gaw says plastics have become the most common contaminant in the world’s oceans – something some consider a bigger environmental threat than global warming.

“While most people are familiar with the damage wrought by large plastic debris, there is increasing awareness of the impacts of microplastic particles,” says Dr Gaw.

Common sources of microplastics include cosmetics and facial scrubs, as well as fibres released from synthetic fabrics. The small plastic particles have been found in all the world’s oceans as well as in Arctic sea ice, and the effects can be devastating.

“Microplastics can be mistaken for food by aquatic organisms, with adverse impacts including internal damage and starvation,” explains Dr Gaw.

“Microplastics have also been found in shellfish consumed by humans, raising questions about potential impacts on human health.”

Before joining UC, Dr Gaw worked for the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) in Christchurch as an environmental health scientist providing advice to the Ministry of Health and regional public health services. She completed her PhD degree in environmental chemistry at The University of Waikato and has an MSc in Environmental Science and Chemistry from the University of Auckland.

Her talk is the latest in UC’s ‘What if Wednesdays’ series of twice-monthly free public lectures that contribute to the community by taking a thought leadership role.

The lecture will be held in C2 Lecture Theatre, Central Lecture Block, University of Canterbury, Arts Road, Christchurch at 7:00pm Wednesday 22 July. Register online for this free event at http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/wiw/

For further information please contact:
Phil Barclay
Communications and Stakeholder Relations Manager
University of Canterbury
Ph: 027 889 5636

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