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Devon scientist reveals how her research led to a government ban on microbeads

Devon scientist reveals how her research led to a government ban on microbeads

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A Devon marine biologist who influenced a government ban on microbeads in cosmetics to reduce sea pollution will be telling her story to The STEMM Cell delegates at Exeter Science Park.

Imogen Napper was at the helm of a research project that contributed to the government’s decision to ban microbeads, or microplastics, from everyday products including facial scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste, so they can no longer infiltrate our seas and be swallowed by wildlife.

Currently working towards her PhD on ‘the sources and fate of plastic pollution in the marine environment' at the University of Plymouth, Imogen was the first person to identify how much we could be polluting the environment from washing our clothes.

Experts believe microplastics found in common household cosmetics pose a serious risk to human health. The UK government announced a ban in September 2016, with the outlawing of the manufacture of products containing microbeads expected in January 2018 and sales prohibited from June.

Imogen’s presentation at The STEMM Cell @ Exeter Science Park on Wednesday, November 1st will focus on her research into the common ways we are unwittingly contaminating our environment with plastic. She forms part of a new series of prestigious presentations by innovators, entrepreneurs and academics from across the region and beyond, which launched at the Science Park this autumn.

The STEMM Cell @ Exeter Science Park – Inspiring Growth, kicked off in September with the autumn/winter programme including a diverse mix of speakers from science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine (STEMM) industries.

Previous speakers have included Dr Steven Hepplestone, Physics and Astronomy lecturer at the University of Exeter, discussing ‘solving the world energy crisis’; with forthcoming speakers including Timothy Nyahasha, Head of Administration for Lidl’s new distribution depot in Exeter; and Ken Woods, Principal Conductor of English Symphony Orchestra discussing ‘leadership without words’.

Dr Sally Basker, CEO of Exeter Science Park said: “The South West is home to a host of leading innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs and businesspeople, so we have created this platform to share the exciting knowledge and innovative projects that take place across Devon and beyond.

“All our speakers have been identified for their expertise, knowledge and skills in areas that can be passed on to bring about benefit to others. 

“We are looking forward to hosting Imogen, whose research work has already been hugely impactful and will continue to contribute to a more positive future for our marine environment.”

Imogen’s talk has been welcomed by the team at the Princesshay store of handmade cosmetics company, Lush Ltd, which produces fresh, ethically sourced, vegetarian or vegan only products and has never used microbeads.

Store manager Katie said: “At Lush we use natural, biodegradable alternatives in all of our body and face scrubs. We use safe, natural ingredients like aduki beans, coarse sea salt, bamboo stem extract and more. We are proud to offer a plastic-free alternative for all of naked range this year as well, in our goal to get more naked and natural.”

Tickets are priced at £10 per event, with a charity donation going to the Devon Community Foundation at the end of the year. For more information and to book your tickets, visit www.exetersciencepark.co.uk/news-events/stemm-cell.


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