Microfibers – How We Are Eating Our Clothes
The single biggest pollution problem facing our ocean is microfibers: trillions of pieces of tiny fibers flowing into the ocean, invisible to us – every time we use our washing machines. Our clothing is breaking up, sending this microfiber (made of plastic and chemical-covered non-plastics) out with the drain water – just one fleece jacket could shed up to 250,000 pieces per garment per wash [source].
New York City, alone, could have 6.8 billion microfibers flowing into its harbor every day. We are all contributing to this problem, every time we do laundry, as our clothes shed them, which go down the drains of our washing machines, through wastewater treatment facilities and into our waterways. Everyone who wears and washes clothes is part of this pollution. And we all suffer the consequences from eating, drinking, and breathing.
Synthetic clothes versus natural clothes are very similar to organic versus non-organic foods. One is easy on your body and the planet (natural) and the other comes with a lot of unwanted chemicals and additives. (synthetic). Clothes made of natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or silk create microfibers too, but those biodegrade and break down in the water.
The most common types of microfibers are made from
- Polyamides such as nylon – all synthetic clothes.
That’s the danger of plastic – even when it is as small as a microfiber, it doesn’t break down and is too small to be removed once it leaves your washing machine.
Studies show up to 85% of the human-made material found shorelines around the world are microfibers. That makes microfibers the most ubiquitous source of human waste of the planet.
Are you getting sick from this?
Who would ever think their clothes could be the cause of
- Digestive issues
- Sleep issues.
- Hormone issues, leading to diseases such as cancer from eating fish that are eating this all day.
Many of the people find out about microfibers or plastics because they have had a compromised immune and their body starts reacting to the clothes they wear. They become allergic to polyester and either don’t know it or have to start finding clothes made with natural fibers.
The presence of any chemical takes a toll on your body (and the planet), and this is just one more thing that adds to the growing burden in our modern world. So if you have rashes and allergies you can’t figure out, this is an area you could explore.
Worst fabrics for your skin:
- Polyester is ranked by some scientists as the worst possible fabric you could put on your skin.
- Wrinkle-resistant fabrics are a close second.
They both have an incredible chemical load put on the planet during production and on your skin when you wear it.
Your skin absorbs what you put on it.
Some say up to 64%. That’s a lot of chemicals from your clothes and doesn’t even include the chemicals you wash it with.
Here are Great Natural Fiber Clothing Companies
Note: Many of these companies will also offer clothing made with recycled fibers. Check the labels on any clothes you are looking at and skip anything with recycled polyester or made from recycled plastic water bottles. These clothes create more microfibers because they are a shorter, more fragile fiber.
- https://www.prana.com/ – 100% organic cotton usage in all it clothes. – Sweaters, Tops, Pants, Yoga Clothes, Outerwear
- https://www.wearethought.com/ – women’s and men’s organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, even modal and Tencel clothing. And low impact dyes and makes it clothing ethically. – Dresses, Skirts, Tights, Coats, Pants, Shirts, Underwear, Scarves, Socks, and more.
- https://wearpact.com/about – Certified organic cotton and fair trade certified – Hoodies & Sweatshirts, Leggings & Tights, Tops & Shirts, Dresses, Pants & Shorts, Hats & Scarves, Sleepwear, Sweaters, Bedding
- https://synergyclothing.com/#thegoodtrade – Organic cotton and fair trade – Dresses, Skirts, Outerwear, Tops, Accessories + Jewelry
- https://www.brookthere.com/organic-lingerie – natural intimates and underwear, but this company uses certified organic cotton
MICROFIBERS ARE 100% CHEMICALS
These become even more toxic to the ocean because they absorb and bind to dyes, chemicals, fire retardants that are put into the clothes, then bacteria, making them grow and even more toxic. They become little chemical sponges.
Aquatic organisms eat the microfibers and research shows this results in gastrointestinal problems – even starvation – as the plastic binds up their systems, and they can’t break it down.
How We Eat, Drink & Breathe Our Clothes
The plastic and chemicals in them cause reproductive issues, compromise immune function, and even death. Then larger organisms eat them, and microplastic and chemicals get passed up the food chain, working their way back to us.
MICROFIBERS Are A bigger problem – In The Food, Water, & Air
A research study from The University of California in Santa Barbara showed that a city the size of Berlin releases a wash-related volume of microfibers equivalent to 500,000 PLASTIC BAGS – EVERY SINGLE DAY.
How do you clean up that many microfibers you can’t see?
Water – And microfibers aren’t just in the water. Water treatment plants take the “sludge” that settles to the bottom of the system and spread it out on fields and the ground.
Soil – Early research shows microfibers are getting in our soil and negatively impacting the soil microorganisms.
Air – And when you dry your clothes or wear them, the microfibers go airborne and you breathe them in – forcing your lungs to try to figure out how to get them out while your body also has to deal with the chemicals they bring. Initial studies show that inhaling the microfibers cause inflammation of the lungs, something textile workers struggle with.
In Food & Bottled Water
Testing shows microfibers in our beer (from the water used to make the beer), our sea salt (because the oceans are now teeming with microfibers), the fish we eat (from eating smaller organisms that have eaten the microfibers), and a study showed 19 of 20 water bottles tested have microfibers in them.
Companies Know About it
And most of the companies making the fabric and the clothes smothering the planet in plastic know about it. But they don’t want you to know.
The man who discovered the microfibers, ecologist Mark Anthony Browne, brought his research to the top clothing companies: Nike, Polartec, Adidas, and even Patagonia. He warned them of the potential ecological nightmare and asked for help research better ways to create the fabric or treat it so it wouldn’t shed.
They all did nothing. Money always wins with big companies. Don’t buy from them, sign the petition, and write to them to tell them you want them to handle the problem they are creating.
What Can You Do? – Since they cannot be cleaned we have to stop them before getting into the ocean.
- The first is to stop buying synthetic clothes – especially clothes that are made from recycled plastic water bottles. These recycled fibers are fragile breaking off even faster creating MORE MICROFIBERS creating an environmental problem 10x greater than the one it’s trying to fix. Unfortunately, recycled “eco-fibers” are trendy with the labels about recycled bottles used making people think they are doing something positive for the environment, people showing them off and more companies are setting up recycled lines. I know It feels GOOD to think your recycled clothing purchase is part of the solution, but based on research, that purchase is fueling a massive problem. Not to mention we’re covering our bodies in plastic all day long and wondering why we’re run down and tired, can’t sleep, digest, have obesity, illness, rash, headaches, and other unexplained symptoms.
Don’t throw your clothes away but you could keep a “clothes you wear” diary for a few weeks and notice if any specific fibers or clothes really are triggering health problems. If certain ones are irritating you then replace those with natural alternatives immediately.
And know that most of the synthetic fabrics that we wear every day (especially polyester) in our dress shirts, yoga pants, fleeces, and even underwear are all increasingly made of synthetic materials — plastic, in fact.
2. Guppy friendly bags to wash your clothes in – This stops the microfibers from getting into the water supply. This should be used with synthetic clothes, especially on the first wash, as that one is the worst. Lots of good reviews – This works when you fill the bag up halfway and then put in natural fiber clothes to fill the rest of the washing machine as explained here – https://myplasticfreelife.com/2017/07/review-guppy-friend-microfiber-catching-laundry-bag/ or FAQs here – https://en.guppyfriend.com/pages/haeufig-gestellte-fragen-faq-fragen-und-antworten-q-a
- 3. Get a Coraball to filter fibers – https://coraball.com/ – This collects ¼ of microfibers from getting into the water supply
- 4. Purchase a washing machine lint filter. These filters require more of an investment, but they will benefit your septic system and the environment. Here are filters I like. This is especially important for apartment buildings or finding a laundry mat that you know uses these.
- 5. Wash in cold water – higher temperatures damage clothes and release more microfibers.
- 6. Use liquid detergent as opposed to powder – Powders create more microfibers.
- 7. Wash (especially synthetics) less often
- 8. Fill up your washing machine. Washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes and fewer fibers released.
- 9. Dry spin clothes at low revs. Higher revolutions increase the friction between the clothes.
- 10. When you clean out your dryer, place lint in the trash instead of washing it down the drain.
- 11. Avoid drying synthetic clothing.
Sign petition to get big companies to stop using synthetics in clothing – http://action.storyofstuff.org/sign/stop_microfiber_plastic_pollution/
FAQ’s about microfibers – https://storyofstuff.org/uncategorized/the-story-of-microfibers-faqs/
See all about microfibers here – https://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-microfibers/