Microfibers from Clothes Contaminating Marine Environment

Posted on Updated on

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan

Studies in Canada show that microfibers used in garments such as yoga pants have become a huge threat to aquatic life. Microfibers made up 95 percent of the plastic pollution in waterways as compared to microbeads which constituted only 5 percent.

fiber-2
Fibers captured on a 20 micron filter. A micron (or micrometer) equals one millionth of a meter (a centimeter is one hundredth of a meter). The fibers were captured by filtering washing machine effluent after washing a Patagonia jacket. The scale in the photo indicates the length of 1,000 microns. Photo: Shreya Sonar, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. Patagonia

Many of the developed nations have proposed regulations to ban the sale of microbeads in toiletries because of the risk they pose to aquatic and marine environments.

But now it appears that a different type of microplastic is becoming a growing threat to aquatic animals.

Findings of a recent research conducted by scientists from Carleton University, Ontario show that most of the microplastics recovered from the Ottawa River and its tributaries were from microfibers rather than microbeads.

Jesse Vermaire, assistant professor of environmental science, geography and environmental studies at Carleton University said:

What really surprised us is that we found plastic particles in every single water and sediment sample we took, so the plastic was really prevalent in the river system. As much as 95 per cent of the plastic in the water samples collected by Vermaire and the Ottawa Riverkeepers was made up of microfibers. Around five per cent of the plastic was made up of micobeads. A lot of them are coming from synthetic clothing.

Yoga pants, fleece-type jackets, athletic wear and other garments made from synthetic materials contain microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers”. Every time you run your washing machine, hundreds of thousands of microfibers are flushed down the drain into natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea and into the food chain.

Ingesting microplastics over a period of time makes animals feel full, meaning many later die of starvation.

Some companies have already started to suggest interim solutions, such as washing synthetics less or capturing the fibers with filters, But a larger, systemic solution, such as new fabric formulations can only be a permanent solution.

*This story first appeared on Digital Journal

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s