A recent study revealed that every time fuzzy jackets and pullovers made with microscopic plastic fibers (microfibers) are washed, pieces of plastic get dispelled into the environment. So, are these microfibers making their way into our food, too?
Outdoor clothing company Patagonia partnered with research groups and found that with each wash of a jacket, two grams of microfibers were shed, NPR reported. The study also found that seven times more microfibers were released in top-load washing machines in comparison to front-load machines. As the water is drained away (along with the microfibers), it is taken to a wastewater plant where many fibers are unable to be filtered out.
According to studies, synthetic microfibers have been spotted in table salt in China, and even in fish caught in California, but the effects of these microfibers on humans and wildlife are still being examined.
"If you're eating fish, you're eating plastic," Gregg Treinish, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, told NPR. "There's no proven causal relationship with health issues, but I don't want to spend the next 50 years eating it and then learn I shouldn't have been."
However, there are ways to help minimize pollution, such as the simple solution of washing fleece clothing less often.
Treinish has also taken it a step further by setting up his own washing machine with a filter that was designed for septic systems in hopes of decreasing the amount of microfibers entering waterways. He also uses the filter in water bottles.