Fab­rics foul­ing seas

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH -

POLYESTER, acrylics and other syn­thetic fab­rics gen­er­ate thou­sands of tiny mi­cropar­ti­cles of plas­tic ev­ery time they are washed and dried, and those par­ti­cles are end­ing up in our oceans and coastal beaches, ac­cord­ing to two new stud­ies.

Un­like the plas­tic bags and other trash that form gi­ant, float­ing trash is­lands or the smaller pieces that can of­ten be found in sea crea­tures’ stom­achs – like the 3,400 pieces re­cently re­cov­ered from the large in­tes­tine of a small green tur­tle off the coast of Brazil – these mi­cropar­ti­cles are nearly in­vis­i­ble to the eye, from 1mm down to 10 mi­crome­tres in di­am­e­ter.

But their tiny size adds up. Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished online last month in the jour­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy, laun­der­ing just one gar­ment made from syn­thetic fi­bres can pro­duce more than 1,900 fi­bres per wash. The worst of­fend­ers were fleece fab­rics. Po­lar fleece is of­ten made from poly­eth­yl­ene tereph­tha­late (PET) or other syn­thetic fi­bres.

And even though these par­ti­cles are small, their po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal dan­ger is large.

Ac­cord­ing to the study’s ab­stract, “in­ges­tion of mi­croplas­tic pro­vides a po­ten­tial path­way for the trans­fer of pol­lu­tants, monomers and plas­ti­cad­di­tives to or­gan­isms with un­cer­tain con­se­quences for their health.”

Lead author Mark An­thony Browne of Univer­sity Col­lege Dublin in Ire­land tested shore­lines in 18 sites rep­re­sent­ing six con­ti­nents. They found mi­croplas­tic con­tam­i­nates at each site, and ob­served that the main source of these par­ti­cles ap­peared to be sewage. Foren­sic anal­y­sis showed that the polyester and acrylic fi­bres came from cloth­ing, and there­fore from wash­ing ma­chines.

An­other study pub­lished in July in the jour­nal Marine Pol­lu­tion Bul­letin ex­am­ined the ef­fect of larger plas­tic trash that broke down into smaller mi­cropar­ti­cles due to weath­er­ing. It found that “mi­croplas­tics con­cen­trate per­sis­tent or­ganic pol­lu­tants (POPs), ab­sorb­ing other pol­lu­tants from the ocean water, mak­ing them more dan­ger­ous as time goes by.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ecol­ogy Cen­tre in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, the health ef­fects from hu­mans in­gest­ing polyester in­clude res­pi­ra­tory-tract ir­ri­ta­tion and skin rashes, while acrylics can cause breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and nau­sea. – Mother Na­ture Net­work/MCT In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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