Polyester Clothing Adding To Water Pollution
March 24, 2017

Comfortable clothes are emerging as a source of plastic that's increasingly ending up in the oceans and potentially contaminating seafood, according to Gulf Coast researchers launching a two-year study of microscopic plastics in the waters from south Texas to the Florida Keys.

Yoga pants, Patagonia's cozy jackets, sweat-wicking athletic wear and other garments made from synthetic materials shed microscopic plastic fibers - called "microfibers" - when they're laundered. Wastewater systems flush the microfibers into natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea.

"Anything that's nylon or polyester, like the fleece-type jackets," University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire said.

When McGuire set out to study the kinds of plastic found in Florida waters, she expected to mostly find microbeads - the brightly colored plastic spheres the U.S. government banned from rinse-off cosmetic products in 2015 because of the potential threat to fish and other wildlife.

Instead, McGuire predominantly found microfibers, even smaller than microbeads and coming from places most people don't consider dangerous to marine life: their closets.

The Gulf Coast study will use McGuire's methodology to determine the prevalence of microfibers and other microscopic plastics in the region's waters.

The effects of microfibers in the food chain remain under investigation, but the emerging data has prompted clothing company Patagonia - which makes fleece jackets and other apparel from synthetic materials - to support research into the prevalence of microfiber pollution and promote information for consumers about ways to minimize microfiber shedding in laundry.

McGuire's Florida Microplastic Awareness Project from September 2015 to August 2016 analyzed samples collected by volunteers from 256 sites around the state's peninsula and the Florida Keys. Eighty-nine percent contained at least one piece of plastic. Microfibers comprised the vast majority of plastic found - 82 percent. Only 7 percent were the microbeads in personal products targeted by the federal ban, which doesn't limit the use of the same plastic spheres in other products.

Go to www.usnews.com/news/best-states/alabama/articles/2017-03-15/yoga-pants-cozy-clothes-may-be-key-source-of-sea-pollution to read the entire story. Reprinted in part from U.S. News & World Report