Washing machines polluting sea shores

October 21st, 2011 - 2:26 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 21 (IANS) Washing machines are becoming a major source of harmful microplastic pollution - bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than a pinhead - which is littering sea shores worldwide.

Mark Browne at Ireland’s University College Dublin and colleagues explained that the accumulation of microplastic debris in marine environments has raised health and safety concerns.

The plastic bits contain harmful ingredients which go into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume fish, the journal Environmental Science and Technology reported.

“Designers of clothing and washing machines should consider the need to reduce the release of fibres into wastewater and research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage,” said Browne, according to a university statement.

Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist in their cells for months. How big is the problem of microplastic contamination? Where are these materials coming from?

To answer the 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, the statement said.

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 fibres can rinse off of a single garment during a wash cycle, and these fibres look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines.

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