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Some clothes cause microplastic pollution. Researchers say you can do something about that, but it's costly.

FleeceInWasher.JPG
Lester Graham
/
Michigan Radio
Synthetic clothing such as some fleece jackets as well as fibers from natural textiles can shed thousands and even millions of microfibers in a single load of your washing machine.

Some of your favorite clothes are contributing to an environmental problem every time you wash them. Clothes such as your fleece or a synthetic blanket can shed thousands to millions of plastic microfibers in a single washing machine load.

The material goes down the drain and to the waste water treatment plant which filters out most of them, but not all of them.

From there, the microfiber gets into streams and lakes. Biologists say they’ve found microscopic fibers in the tissue of fish.

Other scientists have found plastic and natural microfibers in samples of Great Lakes cities’ municipal tap water. They took samples at a few breweries in the region and found microfibers in beer. (Listen to one of the researchers here.)

Researchers from the University of Toronto went to the small town of Parry Sound, Ontario on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. They put filters on washing machine drain hoses in 97 homes.

For more than a year they monitored the washing machines’ drain water. Those filters removed 87 percent of the microfibers from the washers’ waste water.

The downside is this: the microfiber filter kit the researchers used costs $400 on Amazon. There are similar filters available that claim to catch a similar amount of microfilters and run about $70, but it’s not clear those claims have been verified by an independent lab.

Regardless, the question is whether people will spend that much money to reduce a problem they can’t see.

The University of Toronto study was published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science in November. You can find it here.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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