Tiny Baubles: Plastic Pollution Flows from Washday to the Sea
A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology warns that microscopic plastic debris from washing clothes made of synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic and nylon is accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain. Concentrations were greatest near coastal urban areas.
Up to 1,900 tiny fibers per garment were released with each wash during the study. Earlier research has shown that plastic particles smaller than one millimeter comprise 80 percent of environmental plastic and are being eaten by animals and getting into the food chain.
Mark Browne, Ph.D., an ecologist based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a member of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, advises, “Once the plastics had been eaten, they transferred from the animals’ stomachs to their circulation system and actually accumulated in their cells.”
The team took samples from 18 beaches around the globe, including sites in Australia, Britain, India, Japan, Oman, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa and the United States. They found no sample that did not contain pieces of the microplastic.