Most of your sports wear clothes that you find in your wardrobe will be made out of synthetic fabrics such a Nylon and Polyester all of which shed what have come to be known as micro-fibers - microscopic particles of clothes, 20% of which contain micro-plastics. These micro-plastics are found in our food sources and drinking water, posing a considerable threat to our health.
Scientists form Kings College and the University Paris Est has published a paper called ‘Micro plastics in the air: are we breathing it in?'. The report is the first of its kind and studies the prevalence of micro-plastics and microfibers in the air. The report found that wearing and washing synthetic clothes resulted in a photo-oxidative degradation, which increased the risks of inhaling these plastic particles. The particles settle of the floor, mix with dust and can easily be ingested by children. The researchers reported that they could “contain unreacted monomers, additives, dyes and pigments, which could leave to reproductive toxicity and be carcinogenic’
If you think that these micro-particles are only found near large, industrial cities then think again. According to Jonny Gasperi the lead author of the report, he stated to Ecotextile News that they have even been found in ‘remote areas such as alpine lakes’ suggesting that the problem is widespread.
These synthetic micro-fibers were also found to have a very long duration in water, meaning that they could remain in your blood stream for prolonged periods of time. Histopathologocal analysis of lung biopsies in factory workers exposed to these man made fabrics, such as Polyester and Nylon, found small granulomatous legions in their lungs comprised of these very materials, which were casing respiratory irritation, breathlessness and reduced lung capacity.
As a result of the threat of micro-plastics to human health. California State has proposed a mandatory Polyester warning stating that by 2020 all clothing made from more than 50% Polyester must come with a warning which informs the consumers that the garment will shed ocean polluting micro-fibers during domestic washing, if the clothes do not carry a warning, then the sale of the garments will be prohibited. They state that micro-fibers ‘ pose a serious threat to the environment and have been found in fish and shellfish that are consumed by humans ‘
We are really at the tip of the ice-burg in terms of the extent of the hazardous effects of micro-fibers and plastics. We urge you to think twice before buying anything with Polyester, Nylon or in fact any synthetic fabrics and to hand wash these items instead of machine-washing them.
By Judith Emanuel
Reference- Ecotextile News April/May 2018.