According to a recent study by Penn state university in scientific American, 60 percent of our freshwater microplastics come from laundry fibers.When we wash our clothes, the microfibers peel off and eventually make their way into wastewater treatment facilities and from there into lakes and other large bodies of water.
Chemist SherriMason of Pennsylvania state university analyzed 90 water samples from 17 different water treatment facilities across the United States. Mason found that each facility releases an average of more than 4 million microplastics a day.Of these microplastics, 60 percent are fibers from clothing and other fabrics.Thirty-four percent came from plastic microbeads, which were banned in the United States in 2018, and the remaining six percent came from thin films and foams.
Natural materials also shed fibers in washers and dryers, but mason says microbes can digest them, unlike fibers made from synthetic textiles.These are non-biodegradable and may remain in the ecosystem for centuries.
Mason points out that there are 15,000 waste-water treatment facilities in the United States that are designed to remove urine, feces and microorganisms that may have a negative impact on the environment, but they are not designed to remove plastic.Some studies have shown that processing facilities can remove 75 to 99 percent of microplastics, but billions of these microplastics still make their way into our fresh water.
A study published earlier this year in human consumption of microplastics found that americans eat, drink and breathe between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles a year.
The researchers point out that information is power and that consumers are taking action, just as microbeads were banned, and efforts are being made to reduce the production and consumption of plastic.She suggested that everyone could use less plastic, while lobbying businesses to use alternative materials and reusable containers.