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Synthetic lint ends up in oceans

Microplastics from clothes and other consumer products taint beaches

10:34am, September 14, 2011

Every time a garment made from polyester or other synthetic fabric goes through the wash, it sheds tiny plastic fibers. Thousands of them. It turns out that these fibers end up fouling coastal environments throughout the globe, a global research team finds.

Itsy bitsy plastic pellets, such as those used for their abrasive qualities in products like skin cleansers and paint removers, also turn up in coastal sand, a separate study reports. Like polyester lint, these micropellets also go down the drain, through water treatment plants and into coastal waters.

The mass that microplastic bits contribute to marine pollution is small, concedes Mark Browne of University College Dublin, who led the fiber study. But that doesn’t mean their impact is benign, he adds.

Browne’s group sampled shoreline habitats at 18 sites on six continents. Plastic fibers polluted every one, with sites nearest urban centers hosting the most. At any site, microplastic fibers

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