Out With the Tide...and the Cheer, Gain, and All.
Bundled up in comfy fleece when you go out to join a beach clean-up day? Think twice when you get home to wash your clothes. According to research published in Environmental Science & Technology (and brought to our attention by the New York Times Green blog) “waste water from washing machines is an important source of plastic pollution in oceans.” The researchers, based in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, will go only so far as to say that the ingestion of “microplastics” (plastic debris smaller than one mm in size) are “a potential pathway for the transfer of pollutants, monomers, and plastic-additives to organisms with uncertain consequences for their health,” but they are alarmed at the potential scale of the problem: They found microplastic contamination at 18 shoreline sites worldwide on six continents. Notes the Times: “Researchers found that the proportions of synthetic fibers in marine sediments were akin to those found in artificial textiles. Examining washing machine waste water, they found that 1,900 fibers can rinse off a single garment during a wash cycle and that those fibers look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines.”
-- Reed McManus
Image: Environmental Science & Technology