New eco-scare: 'Microplastic' from washing machines

Got a washboard and tub?

Here’s the media release:

Scientists are reporting that household washing machines seem to be a major source of so-called “microplastic” pollution — bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin — that they now have detected on ocean shorelines worldwide. Their report describing this potentially harmful material appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Mark Browne and colleagues explain that the accumulation of microplastic debris in marine environments has raised health and safety concerns. The bits of plastic contain potentially harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish. Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist into their cells for months. How big is the problem of microplastic contamination? Where are these materials coming from? To answer those questions, the scientists looked for microplastic contamination along 18 coasts around the world and did some detective work to track down a likely source of this contamination.

They found more microplastic on shores in densely populated areas, and identified an important source — wastewater from household washing machines. They point out that more than 1,900 fibers can rinse off of a single garment during a wash cycle, and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines. The problem, they say, is likely to intensify in the future, and the report suggests solutions: “Designers of clothing and washing machines should consider the need to reduce the release of fibers into wastewater and research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage.”

Oh my… microplastic can persist in cells for months… the horror.

First it was phosphate detergents — which worked — that were banned. Now we have detergents that smell better but clean less well. Scented laundry products, however, are a problem because of dryer emissions. Bleach is an eco-no-no because it contains chlorine. Dry-cleaning is politically incorrect because of perchloroethylene. And, of course, water use is generally frowned upon by the greens.

Their goal, then, appears to be to make the rest of us as dirty and smelly as the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

5 thoughts on “New eco-scare: 'Microplastic' from washing machines”

  1. I find it more likely that you are allergic to seafood separately than polyester. There is no mechanism for plastic to accumulate in fish. If it got swallowed, it would act similarly to sand and be excreted, It’s not like fish can absorb polyester in their bowels.

    Interesting thought, but if you have the same reaction to deveined shrimp, it’s probably not the source of your allergy.

  2. Snorbert,
    If they float and don’t biodegrade, they will get through water treatment with the water. If it’s small concentrations, it won’t even be noticed with the various leaves and other things that fall on settling basins.
    The harm – no idea. Anything that fine will act either as a fiber or as grit. Similar to hair or sand. The ocean can deal will all of that.

  3. I am allergic to polyester and acrylic. I am not allergic to nylon. I can’t use hearing aids because I am allergic to the hypo-allergenic plastic they are made from. I have no idea why I am allergic to them. It seems that my children inherited the trait, so it appears to be genetic.
    Now, what is really odd, is that I seem to have an allergy to seafood and fish. At least, I get quite ill when I eat them. My children also inherited this condition. Seems to have gotten worse over the years.
    “The bits of plastic contain potentially harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish.”
    For most people, those bits of plastic probably would make no difference. Perhaps for some people it does make a difference. Not sure what could really be done, except for avoiding seafood and fish if it makes you ill.

  4. How are these particles getting through the wastewater treatment plants.

    What are the harmful ingredients, do those ingredients exist in the finished plastic in the form that was harmful before they reacted to form the plastic.

    What kind of havoc do those harmful ingredients wreak? Has anyone ever witnessed the harm.

    What is the concentration of the microparticles in the sand on the beach. How do they enter marine organisms.

    Why are they not inert, the plastics from which they were made are mostly inert. Polyester doesn’t hurt anyone who wears it. Don’t most organisms purge small inert particles from their bodies.

    I have so many questions.

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