Microfibers from synthetic materials, as well as cotton, have been found to have a negative impact on the environment. But what does this mean for us? In this blog post, we’ll explore the findings of a new study from Oregon State University scientists, which looks at the effects of microfibers on water organisms. Read on to find out how the research is changing the narrative around microfibers and why it’s so important.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, found that even cotton, while having less of an impact than the synthetic materials, still has an impact on the growth and behavior of the organisms studied. This is why increased attention is being paid to regulating microfibers, with France recently approving a measure to require new clothes washers sold in the state to be equipped with a microfiber filtration system.
The research team created microfiber samples of different sizes from ropes made of cotton, polyester and polypropylene, and exposed larval and juvenile inland silverside and mysid shrimp to the three microfiber types at three concentrations and different levels of salinity. Among their findings, cotton had no effect on growth in silversides but did reduce growth in the mysids at the two lower salinities, while synthetic fibers reduced growth in both organisms over just a few days of exposure.
The researchers also found that polyester and polypropylene had more of an effect on behavior than cotton did in both organisms, and that cotton impacted both organisms’ behavior more at higher salinities, whereas polyester and polypropylene had more behavioral impacts at lower salinities.
Overall, the study demonstrates the need for better awareness and control over the release of fibers, as well as increased sustainability of clothing so that it sheds less. It also highlights the importance of passing laws that would require filters on both clothes washers and dryers, as previous studies have found dryers are an underestimated source of microfibers being released into the environment.
We hope this blog post has provided some insight into the findings of this important research, and that it encourages you to take action to reduce the release of microfibers into the environment.