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Microplastics In Clothing and Other Fabrics

Microplastics In Clothing and Other Fabrics

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When you clean out the lint trap in your clothes dryer, part of what you are looking at are microplastics !

If you wash clothing or other fabrics made of synthetics, not only dirt particles are flowing down the drain. Also, bits of non-biodegradable fibers such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex, etc. Down the drain often means winding up in our rivers, lakes, bays and oceans worldwide. It is estimated that 35% of global microfibers come from shedding during washing machine cycles. These fibers have been found in high elevation water systems and in the deepest canyons of the oceans.

Some of this material may get caught up in the more modern sewage treatment plants as sludge, to be burned or landfilled, but tiny fibers still get through most systems.

Plastic of all sizes in these water bodies can cause not only choking and intestinal blockage in marine mammals, but also changes in hormonal activity in all marine organisms. As the smallest affected organisms are consumed, the concentrations can work their way up the food chain to humans. Again, hormonal changes, endocrine disruption and cancer risks can result.

What can we do about this ? It is possible to get a wastewater filter to connect to the drain of your clothes washer. This would need to be cleaned periodically as you would your dryer’s lint filter. If you have a septic system, this type of filter would be particularly helpful in preventing blockage of natural processes, groundwater contamination and potential system failure.

Front loading washers evidently use a more consistent action that produces less than half of the microfiber as top-loading machines.

Washing only with full loads will also produce fewer microfibers, again by using more consistent action that doesn’t contribute to tearing off fibers while cleaning.

Most importantly, try to use clothing and other fabrics made with plastic-free fibers like organic cotton, wool, linen, hemp and other natural materials. Materials need to be biodegradable to help prevent the bioaccumulation in marine and human tissues that is so prevalent. Modern textile industries have the technology to create fibers using natural and cultivated blends that will be durable, yet not persistent in the environment when exposed to natural breakdown processes.

This does not even include the microparticles and microbeads that continue to be used in cosmetics and cleaning products for abrasion, foundation, exfoliation both in the home and in industrial processes. Bans, restrictions and safe practices recommendations have been put into place, but there are still sources available for such products and pathways for the waste to get into the ecosystem.

Because of the prevalence of plastic breakdown products and chemicals in drinking water, make sure to use water filtration at least for sediment and fiber for the whole house, and additionally for chemicals at points where water for drinking and cooking is drawn. Do not rely on plastic bottled water for your primary source of drinking water, unless in emergency. These products contain high amounts of particles and chemicals, particularly when exposed to sunlight and other heat sources.

Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.

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