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UVic green scientist develops new enviro-friendly preservative for cosmetics & cleaners

“Reversible” anti-microbial fights bacteria while in the container, but breaks down into two harmless ingredients once outside of it

Preservatives such as parabens are commonly used to prevent molds and bacteria from growing in personal-care and household products.Though they have replaced many of less-safe preservatives, parabens still impact the environment.

Large amounts of anti-bacterial products washing into water systems and killing off good bacteria, is similar to a human using anti-biotics.

“Any time you introduce something into the environment designed to kill off bacteria and mold, it’s part of a cumulative stress on the environment,” says University of Victoria green chemist and civil engineer Heather Buckley.

Preservatives are found in a wide range of commonly used household items including shampoos, moisturizers, suntan products, makeup, toothpaste and cleaning products. A 2016 wastewater study in New York City estimated that 546 kilograms of paraben end up in the environment every year from NYC residents alone.

Buckley recently led a 10-person team that included the US Department of Agriculture, SaferMade and the Berkeley Centre for Green Chemistry to develop an award-winning “reversible” anti-microbial that fights bacteria while in the container, but breaks down into two harmless ingredients once outside of it.

Buckley’s team owns the intellectual property rights for the new preservative and is now working with Method and other partners to commercialize it.

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