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Dryer Lint Pollution

December 8, 2011

Drying polyester clothing in a machine may contribute to plastic pollution at sea.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Exposing plastics’ dirty laundry…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s common knowledge that plastic bags and other packaging waste pollute the environment. But after extensive detective work, researchers have nabbed a previously undetected source of plastic pollution: dryer lint. University College Dublin ecologist Mark Browne and his team sampled sand from beaches around the world, and discovered an abundance of tiny polyester fibers in it. Suspecting that the source might be clothing, it was time to do some laundry.

MARK BROWNE (University College Dublin):

Things like a fleece were producing more than 1900 fibers per wash.

HIRSHON:

He says they not only found the fibers on every beach they sampled, but in sewage dumped into the sea as well. 

BROWNE

This is the strongest evidence yet that the source of this material may actually be our sort of washing habits.

HIRSHON:

The researchers worry that the microscopic fibers might harm marine organisms, and could be getting into the fish and crustaceans that we eat. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.