A lot more than soap and water and the dirt from your clothes might be going down the drain from your washing machine.
Scientists are now fingering the laundry for an excess of "microplastic" pollution that has been detected on shorelines worldwide.
Well, we knew our clothes were being made more and more from plastic and other synthetics. Now, it seems, tiny bits of acrylic and polyester smaller than the head of a pin, are coming off in the wash as well. Researchers, led by Mark Anthony Browne of the University College Dublin in Ireland, said that more than 1,900 fibers can rinse off a single garment during a single wash, "and these fibers look just like the microplastic debris on shorelines," Browne said.
Plastics can have pollutants attached to them. Brown said that the bits of plastic "contain harmful ingredients which when ingested transfer into the bodies of animals and could be transferred to people who consume shellfish and fish. Ingested microplastic can transfer and persist in their cells for months."
The report was published in Environmental Science & Technology, the journal of the American Chemical Society.
Browne said that research is needed to develop methods for removing microplastic from sewage. Scientists also need to figure out which fibers pose less of a problem for habitats, animals and humans.
Or, maybe we should all just switch to organically-grown cotton.