News Brief

Washing Synthetic Fabrics Pollutes Oceans with Plastic

Laundering clothes gradually makes them threadbare, but most of us don’t think much about where the missing threads end up. New research suggests that tiny synthetic fibers from washing machine wastewater may be polluting oceans and affecting marine life.

In a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology, marine biologists from Australia, Canada, and the U.K. reported that microplastic comprised of fibers less than 1 mm in length is accumulating in marine habitats on shorelines throughout the world and suggested that polyester and acrylic fibers from wastewater are a major source of this contamination. A single synthetic garment, the study found, can yield more than 1,900 microfibers per wash.

While the effect of accumulated microplastic on marine habitats is not known, the researchers say the fibers represent “a potential pathway for the transfer of pollutants, monomers, and plastic additives to organisms.” An abstract of the study is available at



Published November 29, 2011

Melton, P. (2011, November 29). Washing Synthetic Fabrics Pollutes Oceans with Plastic. Retrieved from

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