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Ocean Microfibers

April 3, 2018

Tiny fibers from our washing machines could harm marine life.


Our laundry could be harmful to the environment. (CC0/via Gratisography)

Our laundry could be harmful to the environment. (CCO/via Gratisography)


Washing out pollution. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The laundry we run through the wash sheds tiny microfibers that slip past filters in wastewater treatment plants and make their way into our oceans, where they end up in all kinds of marine life.

NICHOLAS MALLOS (Ocean Conservancy):

Because they are so small, there’s really is no organism that cannot take them up or ingest them, ranging from mussels and oysters all the way up to great whales and filter feeders.


Nicholas Mallos of the Ocean Conservancy says scientists are investigating how microfibers may harm sealife by blocking digestion, or through contamination. At the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference he described efforts to identify which fabrics shed the most, and discussed technologies for keeping microfibers out of wastewater in the first place – like washing machine filters, and small devices that collect the lint before it can escape. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard