Starting from school projects to house parties, glitter is the most common material used by millions of people all around the world without knowing the fact that it can cause serious damage to the environment.

Yes, the most used and famous material could be causing ecological damage to Earth's rivers and lakes, revealed a study led by Dr. Dannielle Green of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge. This study is the first to examine the impact of glitter on freshwater habitats.

Glitter
Biodegradable glitter could be as bad for the environment as the plastic variety Pixabay

The researchers carried out research on ordinary glitter and so-called biodegradable or eco glitter—made of modified regenerated cellulose (MRC) that is usually from eucalyptus trees but still uses aluminum for reflectivity and topped with a thin layer of plastic—in water samples from the River Glaven in Norfolk. Another form is mica, a kind of glitter that is widely used in cosmetics.

In recent times the use of biodegradable glitters has increased as consumers are asked to turn to so-called environmentally friendly alternatives to glitter made from PET, a type of plastic. But the recent study, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, may change the way we think about 'environmental-friendly' glitters--massively used from the fashion and beauty industry to the home decor.

Environmental Hazard

According to the study, the scientists found that after 36 days, the presence of normal glitters has halved the root length of the common duckweed, and found signs of reduced levels of microalgae—extremely important for the aquatic life. But the effects of the so-called biodegradable glitter were almost identical to those of the mica glitters, with similar consequences for the flora.

The lead author of the study Dr. Dannielle Green, a biologist at the Anglia Ruskin University said that the research findings have shown that since the products are labeled as bio-degradable that doesn't mean that it cannot harm the ecosystem.

Glittr
So called Eco-friendly glitter could be as bad for the environment as the plastic variety Pixabay

These highly popular materials used in daily cosmetic products are washed off in our skin and then into the water system, said Green. As per the researcher, the new study is the first to understand what kind of threats glitter can pose to the freshwater environment. After the study it is now clear that "both conventional and alternative glitters can have a serious ecological impact on aquatic ecosystems within a short period of time," added Green.

The cellulose-based glitter also encourages the growth of a non-native species the New Zealand mud snail. Green said, "We believe these effects could be caused by leachate from the glitters, possibly from their plastic coating or other materials involved in their production."