We have long known that apparel production is linked to environmental ills, such as water and air pollution, not to mention the land, water and pesticide use related to growing natural fibers. Now, a growing body of research shows that apparel made wholly or partially from synthetic textiles is the source of yet another big problem: a type of microplastic known as microfibers, shed during normal use and during laundering.
Made from polyester or other popular synthetics that account for a growing proportion of our wardrobes, these fibers linger in the environment, just like the plastic packaging that coats so many of the world’s beaches, and they bond to chemical pollutants in the environment, such as DDT and PCB. Plus, the textiles from which they are shed are often treated with waterproofing agents, stain- or fire-resistant chemicals, or synthetic dyes that could be harmful to organisms that ingest them. Worse, we all appear to be consuming microfibers in food and drink. And a research review published last year indicates that some of the microfibers floating in the air could be settling in our lungs.
Today, clothing retailers, textile companies, environmental nonprofits and others around the world are working hard to better understand the problem and craft solutions.
To read more, visit: ensia.com/features/microfibers/